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When you’re in your 20s, the thought of throwing your back while heaving off a couch or experiencing joint pain from arthritis seems impossible to many. But by the time you hit 40, reality sets in and you need to keep an eye out for two main types of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. According to Mayo Clinic, anyone who enjoys high-impact exercise needs to watch out for osteoarthritis. This type of joint damage occurs as a result of the breakdown of cartilage around the joints and the pain comes from bones rubbing against other bones.

Even though you can dodge this variety, you still have to dodge rheumatoid arthritis. This type develops when the body attacks the cartilage around your joints, causing inflammation and swelling. All sorts of factors can lead to these conditions, and anyone with a history of joint injury or a family history of arthritis needs to be especially careful about arthritis later in life. As you get older, your risk factor for developing arthritis also increases, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to lower your chances of living with this joint problem.

Obesity plays a major role and anyone who is overweight has a higher chance of getting arthritis at some point in their life. By keeping track of the foods you eat, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing arthritis, especially after you hit 40. Eat this, not that! met with a handful of dietitians to find out what eating habits you need to break in order to keep your joints healthy and fit as you age.

Although you can break some patterns, keeping track of the foods that go into your diet can also prevent arthritis in the long run. Incorporate the top 40 arthritis-fighting foods into your life for the best results.

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Eating too much salt can lead to various serious problems, including gout. Even if you don’t have this type of arthritis, it can’t hurt to reduce your sodium intake during the day, especially when you hit 40.

“A high-salt diet is one of the worst things to eat if you have arthritis,” says Lindsey Delk, RD. “Research shows that a high-salt diet can make arthritis worse, so reducing your salt intake could help your arthritis symptoms.”

Over-salting your meals is one of the 4 worst eating habits if you have arthritis, and anyone looking to avoid this issue should take it easy the next time they need to season their meal.

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“Of course, you should avoid using the salt shaker, but you can also reduce the amount of salt in your diet by avoiding processed foods,” Delk continued. “Choose whole, unprocessed foods and enjoy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.”

By switching to whole foods and more produce, you can potentially avoid arthritis as you age, but all your best efforts won’t count for much if you decide to overeat a particular sweet ingredient.

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Nothing seems as decadent as having dessert with every meal, but eating too much sugar puts you at a higher risk of developing arthritis. Sugar’s potential to cause inflammation makes it particularly difficult to eat – if you want to avoid arthritis after 40, your best bet is to ditch this ingredient as much as possible.

“As a registered dietitian who also controls her own rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and flare-ups through diet, I recommend eliminating or reducing as many inflammatory foods as possible,” says Trista Best, Dt.P. a dietitian at Balance One Supplements.

If you like a sweet treat once in a while, you can’t go wrong with a particular zero-calorie sweetener that blows away the competition.

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When you think of gluten, your mind might immediately think of stomach sensitivity. This component can do more harm than potentially upset your digestive tract. “Refined carbs and gluten are both highly inflammatory and can both trigger an arthritis flare-up or exacerbate the pain of a current flare-up,” Best continued.

By monitoring your gluten intake, you can minimize flare-ups as you age and ensure your joints feel good every day.

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Obesity is a major factor in the development of arthritis later in life, and many can avoid this condition by curbing the eating habits that lead to it. One way to make sure you never have to deal with arthritis is to ditch fast food whenever possible.

“Fast food is high in calories and fat, which can lead to weight gain and obesity,” Janet Coleman, Dt.P. a dietitian at TheConsumerMag said. “Obesity is one of the most common causes of arthritis.”

If you like fast food but want to eat healthier, choose a healthier option, like the healthiest plant-based fast food product, according to a nutritionist.

Erich Barganier

Erich Barganier is a columnist specializing in health and food. Read more