Arthritis is a debilitating condition of the joints that is characterised by joint pain and swelling along with a reduction in the range of motion of the affected joint. It is not a single disease but a group of more than 200 diseases with a similar set of symptoms. Arthritis may occur due to wear and tear (osteoarthritis), inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis and psoric arthritis), joint infection or due to metabolic disturbances (gouty arthritis).

If you have arthritis, you know that the condition can greatly interfere with your day to day life. And while most forms of arthritis can be managed with regular medications, arthritis patients look for alternate or additional ways to ease their symptoms, with diet being one of them.

While there is no single diet for specific kinds of arthritis, you can add or remove certain foods from your diet to keep the situation from worsening and help promote healing of the joint. 

The idea is to reduce inflammation and pain in joints and improve joint health.

Read more: Exercises for arthritis

  1. Foods to eat if you have arthritis
  2. Which vegetables are good for arthritis patients
  3. Good fruits for arthritis
  4. Fiber rich foods for arthritis
  5. Seeds and nuts are good for arthritis
  6. Drink lemon water if you have arthritis
  7. Milk, yoghurt, cheese and other dairy products for arthritis
  8. What kind of tea is good for arthritis
  9. Effects of coffee in arthritis
  10. Which foods make arthritis worse

Even if you don’t have an idea about the concept of anti-inflammatory foods, chances are you do know about some of the foods that are known for reducing joint pain and swelling. Over the years, several studies have been conducted to find out which of these foods actually work for arthritis patients and while some of them were found to be effective, some are still being studied. Let us have a look at some of the most common foods that are good for arthritis:

When it comes to arthritis, the Arthritis Association, USA, stresses on adding as many vegetables to your plate as possible and while you are at it, add more colours too. Also, steaming and sauteing is considered a good way to cook vegetables rather than boiling or deep frying.

Spinach and broccoli: Shop for a lot of leafy greens like spinach, and cruciferous veggies like cabbagebroccoli and kale. All of these veggies are chock full of antioxidants and vitamin C, A and K, which reduce oxidative stress in the body and, in turn, reduce inflammation and improve bone health. Oxidative stress occurs when there are excess free radicals (singlet oxygen species) in your body and it negatively affects both metabolism and organ function.

Both lab studies and clinical studies have found that sulforaphane, a compound that forms in your body on digestion of broccoli, can prevent and slow down osteoarthritis. Another study that was done on 40 obese subjects indicated that consumption of 30g broccoli sprouts per day can help reduce inflammation in the body.

Similarly, spinach has several bioactive compounds that can reduce inflammation. In particular, a compound called p-coumaric acid present in spinach has shown strong anti-inflammatory effects in animal-based studies.

Onions and garlic: Both these pungent veggies belong to the allium family, which is well known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. Almost all members of the allium family have a compound called diallyl disulphide, which reduces cartilage damage in osteoarthritis patients. Also, both onions and garlic have a flavonoid called quercetin, which is known to be good for reducing arthritis inflammation. In animal models, quercetin has shown significant anti-arthritic activity. Though quercetin supplements could not help rheumatoid arthritis patients, it did reduce uric acid and may thus be helpful for those with gouty arthritis.

Red pepper, carrots, sweet potatoes and sweet corn: Red and yellow vegetables are rich in carotenoid pigments that are well known for their antioxidant action. Antioxidants, in turn, reduce inflammation. 

Carrots and red peppers are particularly rich in a carotenoid called beta-cryptoxanthin. A 2005 study suggested that consuming foods that are rich in beta-cryptoxanthin can reduce inflammation.

Ginger: Ginger is jam-packed with substances that can help relieve inflammation. It is described as a potent anti-inflammatory herb in ayurvedic medicine and is said to be especially good for those with rheumatic arthritis.

A clinical study including 261 osteoarthritis patients concluded that standardised ginger extracts provide moderate relief from knee pain

Just like vegetables, fruits are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help manage arthritis. Citrus fruits are a good option since they have vitamin C, a natural antioxidant. Fruits like oranges, avocados, papaya and grapefruits also contain a significant amount of carotenoids, which are known to reduce inflammation. 

Similarly, red and black grapes contain a polyphenol called resveratrol, which is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. Clinical studies show that resveratrol can be used as an adjuvant to conventional arthritis drugs as the two are more potent when taken together.

Apart from all of this, most fruits contain minerals and other macro and micronutrients that help improve overall health.

So don’t forget to add these fruits to your grocery list next time you go shopping for fruits.

Fibers are complex carbs that are present in ample amounts in fruits, vegetables and nuts. They help in digestion and proper absorption of nutrients in the gut. A fibre-rich diet is no doubt the best thing for weight management and reducing extra fat from the body, two of the most common causes of inflammation. But does it directly help with arthritis symptoms? It just may. A recent study done on 29 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients showed that a fibre-rich diet helps improve RA symptoms. Also, it has been found that people who take about 25g of fiber each day are at a much lower risk of developing knee pain with time.

Some fibre-rich foods include whole grains, pulses, vegetables like carrots, broccoli, fruits such as oranges and berries. However, if you want the complete benefits of fiber and don’t want constipation, make sure your drink ample amounts of water through the day.

Nuts and seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, proteinsvitamin E, fiber and magnesium all of which can keep a check on inflammation. 

It has been scientifically proven that those who eat nuts have a much lower level of inflammatory biomarkers in their blood than those who don’t.

Here are some nuts and seeds arthritis patients can add in their diet: 

You can either eat them as they are or sprinkle them over salads, yoghurt or other dishes. Make sure to consume seeds and nuts in moderation since they are high in calories and could lead to weight gain.

Proper hydration is one of the basic requirements for good health. Water flushes out toxins from the body, which otherwise may cause inflammation. It also helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body and is essential for lubricating joints. Make sure you drink eight to ten glasses of water per day.

In addition to plain water, you can also drink lemon water. Lemon is a good source of vitamin C, which helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. It also reduces blood uric acid levels and is hence effective for patients with gouty arthritis.

When it comes to the effects of dairy in arthritis patients, everybody seems to have a different view. While some people say that milk and cheese increase inflammation, some say that dairy actually helps reduce their symptoms.

Usually, low-fat dairy is said to be good in gouty arthritis, since it is a rich source of proteins but does not increase uric acid levels much. A study done in 2014 found that women who drink low-fat milk are at a much lower risk of knee pain than women who don’t.

On the other hand, a study done in Iran found that regular consumption of dairy products may increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Yoghurt is a probiotic and hence yoghurt consumption is linked to a reduction in inflammatory markers in the body.

If you doubt that dairy may be causing your arthritis to flare up, try cutting down one dairy product at a time and see how it works for you.

A cup of tea can refresh and rejuvenate the senses but did you know it can also have a lot of other health benefits? Both green tea and black tea have proven anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea has a set of compounds called polyphenols, which help reduce free radical damage and slow down inflammation. A specific polyphenol present in green tea called epigallocatechin-3 gallate helps preserve bones and is hence good for bone health.

However, there is no confirmatory evidence of how much tea to you can drink safely to reap all of these benefits.

Coffee is probably one of the most loved beverages in the world after tea. A lot of people are concerned if coffee is a risk factor for arthritis. Unfortunately, the evidence is conflicting. So while some scientists say that coffee increases your risk of developing arthritis (either OA or RA), others say that it has no effect on the incidence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. However, long term consumption of coffee reduces the chances of gouty arthritis as it reduces the risk of hyperuricemia or high uric acid levels. Make sure you drink coffee in moderation as excess consumption of coffee can lead to chronic kidney disease.

Those who have arthritis must take caution while consuming the below-mentioned foods:

Vegetables to avoid if you have arthritis

Most vegetables are said to be good for arthritis. However, vegetables belonging to the nightshade family such as potatobrinjal and tomato are believed to worsen inflammation and arthritis symptoms. Some studies say that because potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, it might cause increased fat deposition and hence pose a risk of inflammation and arthritis. Alpha-solanine, an alkaloid present in the nightshade family has shown pro-inflammatory activity (induced inflammation) in lab studies.

However, there is a lot of evidence about the anti-inflammatory activity of tomato, which also contains vitamin C, a strong antioxidant. 

So, if you have arthritis, it is best that you talk to your doctor to know if any of these vegetables are safe for you.

Alcohol

While some kinds of alcohol like wine are said to be good for arthritis - wine contains resveratrol from grapes and hence helps reduce inflammation - it is best to drink in moderation. 

Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis. According to the Arthritis Society, Canada, most arthritis drugs react with alcohol and increase the risk of stomach and liver issues.

Alcohol causes dehydration and increases uric acid levels in the body, so if you have gouty arthritis, try to avoid drinking when you can or talk to your doctor to know how much alcohol is safe for you. 

Sugar and salt

Both sugar and salt are considered to be pro-inflammatory foods. When you consume excess sugar, it combines with fats and proteins in your bloodstream to make what is called advanced glycation end products, which lead to inflammation. Similarly, a high salt diet is associated with tissue inflammation and is particularly associated with an increased risk of RA.

So, if you have arthritis, try to follow moderation while seasoning your food and always check labels for added sugars and salt while buying packed food.

Refined grains

If you have arthritis, it is best to avoid all kind of refined grains and flour. These include white rice and white flour and anything made from refined flours like cakes, bread, pies, biscuits or processed foods. These foods don’t have the fiber that is present in whole grains and are quickly digested by the body leading to the production of simple carbs (sugars), which cause inflammation when present in a large amount. Excess carbs also make you put on weight and overweight and obesity is considered a risk factor for arthritis.

Whenever possible, opt for whole grains instead. Most whole grains contain some pro-inflammatory properties, however, the nutrients in those grains far outweigh the side effects. 

Chicken and animal meat

Meat, especially red meat, is not particularly good for arthritis patients, especially if you have gouty arthritis. It is rich in protein and hence leads to an increase in serum uric acid levels, the underlying causes of gout. 

When it comes to the effects of meat on inflammation, the evidence is not clear. A study published in the year 2000, in the British Journal of Nutrition suggested that the fat, iron and nitrites in animal meat increase inflammation. They should hence be avoided by arthritis patients.

Contrary to this, a 2007 study could not find a link between iron, red meat and rheumatoid arthritis.

According to some researchers in China, chicken, especially chicken breast, contains collagen, which is good for those with rheumatoid arthritis. When taken orally (especially in the form of capsules) this collagen improves oral tolerance and hence the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Oral tolerance means that when taken orally in a particular amount, collagen reduces the hyperactivity of the immune system, the cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

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