For those who suffer from arthritis, simple dietary changes may help reduce inflammation and provide relief. Research shows that eliminating certain foods and beverages may reduce symptom severity in patients with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis, in addition to improving their overall quality of life.

Here are ten foods to limit or avoid if you suffer from arthritis:

1. Salt

Too much salt is associated with an increased inflammatory response, which can aggravate arthritic symptoms. In fact, one study showed excess salt consumption increases the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.1 To add flavor to your food, replace salt with herbs, spices, lemon juice, and other salt-free seasonings.

2. Added sugars and sweetened beverages

Try to limit total added sugar intake to less than 9 teaspoons per day. Added sugars don?t offer any nutritional value and can increase inflammation. Common food sources of added sugar include sweetened beverages, candy, desserts, baked goods, ice cream, and condiments.

3. Red meat

Red meats are high in fat and saturated fat, and research has associated red meat intake with increased levels of inflammation in the joints.Substitute red meat with chicken, fish, legumes, or nuts.

4. High-fat dairy and cheese

Avoid full-fat dairy, as a high-fat diet can lead to inflammation. However, continue to eat probiotic-rich yogurt and kefir, as they promote a healthy gut microbiome and decrease inflammation.

5. Omega-6 fatty acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids lead to inflammation and are over-consumed in the average American diet. Instead, consume healthier monosaturated fats, such as olive oil, and omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, and cod.

6. Fried foods

Fried foods are often cooked in oils that are high in saturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids, and both have been associated with increased inflammation and an increase in arthritis symptoms.3 Air frying offers a great option for eliminating fried foods.

7. Canned foods

Canned fruit is high in added sugar, which increases inflammation. Replace with fruit canned in water or without added sugar. Salt is also added to many canned goods as a preservative, so look for low-sodium or no salt added products.

8. Refined carbohydrates

Processed grains are lower in fiber and are simple carbohydrates, which spike blood sugar and increase inflammation. Replace with complex carbs like whole grains, quinoa, and brown rice.

9. Processed foods

Frozen meals, pre-packaged snacks, lunch meat, and fast food are made with refined grains, added sugars, and salt to keep them shelf stable and these ingredients increase inflammation. Eating a highly processed diet is associated with increased obesity and insulin resistance, which negatively impact arthritis symptoms.

10. Gluten

Preliminary research has found that a gluten-free diet has been associated with some improvements for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and reduced inflammation.4

Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center


1 Salgado E, Bes-Rastrollo M, de Irala J, Carmona L, Gomez-Reino J.?High sodium intake is associated with self-reported rheumatoid arthritis: A cross sectional and case control analysis within the SUN cohort.?Medicine. 2015;94(37).

2 Ley SH, Sun Q, Willett WC, et al.?Associations between red meat intake and biomarkers of inflammation and glucose metabolism in women.?The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;99(2):352-360.

3 Duan Y, Zeng L, Zheng C, et al.?Inflammatory links between high fat diets and diseases.?Frontiers in Immunology. 2018;9(2649). doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02649

4 Philippou E, Nikiphorou E.?Are we really what we eat? Nutrition and its role in the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.?Autoimmune Reviews. 2018;17(11).

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