Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects 30 million Americans each year. With this disease, the cartilage between the bones breaks down, causing friction and joint pain. It’s the most common form of arthritis, typically affecting the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

Unfortunately, joint damage caused by osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, but there are ways to manage symptoms and slow the disease progression. One of the most powerful tools is maintaining a proper diet.

Diet can play a significant part in managing symptoms. Therefore, it’s essential to be mindful of nutrition, as the types of food you eat can worsen or help improve symptoms.

What Foods to Avoid With Osteoarthritis

Numerous foods can trigger symptoms and should be avoided as much as possible to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Sugary foods
    Foods such as candy, soda, and other sweets contain added sugars that trigger the release of cytokines, which are proteins that increase joint inflammation.
  • Refined carbohydrates
    Refined carbohydrates include white bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, etc. These refined carbohydrates cause a spike in blood glucose, which can exacerbate inflammation in the body. These foods also typically contain preservatives and added sugars, contributing to worsening symptoms.
  • Dairy products
    While dairy products do contain levels of calcium and protein that can help strengthen bones, they also contain high levels of casein, which has been known to cause inflammation in joints. This includes products like cheese, butter, mayonnaise, and milk.
  • Red meat or fried foods
    Red meat and fried foods contain high levels of advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, created through a reaction between sugars and fats, typically when high-protein, high-fat animal foods are cooked in certain ways. This includes meats like bacon, steak, fried chicken, and other items such as french fries.
  • Alcohol and tobacco
    Alcohol and tobacco are both proven to increase inflammation, leading to further joint pain for people with osteoarthritis. Tobacco use can also accelerate damage in joints, as it affects the regrowth of cartilage.

What Foods Help Control Osteoarthritis?

While there is a seemingly long list of foods that can worsen osteoarthritis, the good news is that several foods can be consumed to help alleviate symptoms as well.

  • Fruits & vegetables
    Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant vitamins to reduce inflammation and high fiber to aid digestion. This includes fruits like apples, oranges, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and green, leafy vegetables like cauliflower, kale, and broccoli.
  • High-fiber legumes
    The high fiber in beans and other legumes reduces the c-reactive protein in the blood. This protein is known to cause inflammation, so incorporating beans regularly can help combat this.
  • Nuts
    Nuts can be a great addition to your diet, as they are a great source of fiber and “healthy” fats, and omega-3 acids. Nuts also contain nutrients like magnesium, zinc, calcium, and vitamin E, all of which help with inflammation. Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts are especially recommended.
  • Fish high in omega-3s
    Certain types of fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have natural anti-inflammatory properties. For example, fish like salmon or mackerel have higher levels, so can be great to incorporate into your diet.
  • Garlic and Onions
    Garlic reduces inflammation and even lowers high blood pressure, while onions can remove toxins and aid digestion. These aromatics are part of the allium family, and both contain diallyl disulfide, which research has shown helps slow cartilage deterioration in joints.

Manage Your Osteoarthritis Symptoms

For more help managing your osteoarthritis symptoms, contact Advanced Rheumatology of Houston at (281) 766-7886 for an appointment. Our experts can help you develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and live a healthy lifestyle.