Do Certain Foods Help Fight Arthritis?

Experts say that while no diet can cure arthritis, certain foods can help alleviate inflammation

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


More than 50 million adults have been diagnosed with arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

No one “super food” or particular diet can cure arthritis, but diet does play a role in triggering arthritic inflammation.

“Generally, our American diet is prone for inflammation,” said Jane Burrell Uzcategui, registered dietitian and instructor in public health, food studies and nutrition at Falk College at Syracuse University.

She advises clients to develop a more plant-based diet, though it doesn’t have to be vegetarian. Eating more vegetables supplies more nutrients and reduces calories.

“If we over-consume and have a positive energy balance, we gain weight and that increases inflammation,”Uzcategui said. “Losing weight also reduces pressure and trauma on joints.”

Kelly Springer, registered dietitian and owner of Kelly’s Choice, LLC in Skaneateles, also wants clients to reduce their intake of saturated fat that’s found in animal products.

“It can be metabolized into pro-inflammatory compounds,” Springer said. “If you choose leaner meats and reduced-fat dairy, it can help reduce your intake of saturated fat.”

Many sources of red meat are high in saturated fat. A few exceptions are lean cuts of beef, grass-fed beef, buffalo and venison.
Springer encourages clients to incorporate more plant-based proteins, including beans, nuts and seeds.

She said that people with arthritis should make sure they include in their diets a variety of colorful produce. These foods are rich in antioxidants.

“They help give free radicals the missing electron which neutralizes the free radical,” Springer explained. “Those free radicals are the things responsible for inflammation. They cause havoc all over the body. Eat the colors of the rainbow. We get different antioxidants with every color.”

Springer added that omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce inflammation.Omega-3s are found in found fish such as salmon and tuna, and in chia seeds and ground flax.

“They are anti-inflammatory foods,” Springer said. “You can do frozen or canned. If you’re not eating fish, I recommend doing a supplement.”

Simple and refined carbohydrates include foods such as crackers, white rice, white bread, white pasta and added sugars.
“When it breaks down, it can cause massive inflammation,” Springer said.

Whole grains provide nutrients, fiber and tend to not aggravate inflammation. They include quinoa, brown rice, and oatmeal.

People with an autoimmune disease may benefit from eschewing grains such as wheat that contain the natural protein gluten. Springer said that people with an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis may have leaky gut syndrome.

“The GI tract has been compromised and large molecules like gluten can go through the gut lining too early and it causes inflammation,” Springer said.

It’s also important to hydrate properly. Springer estimates that 85 to 90 percent of people remain chronically dehydrated.

“Every living cell in the body needs hydration to survive,” she said. “If we’re not getting proper hydration, we’ll be out of balance. Even in your GI tract, all the bacterial cells in your gut require hydration as well. Just getting in more hydration is truly going to help reduce inflammation.”

She recommends at least 64 ounces of water a day and more during warm weather or while exercising.

Uzcategui recommends spicing up dishes with seasonings such as turmeric, curry, cinnamon, and ginger, which support an anti-inflammation diet.