You may not be thinking much about your arthritis as you’re walking down the grocery store aisles or looking at a restaurant menu—but maybe you should start.
There are several types of foods known to either promote or suppress inflammation in our bodies. If you seek out the anti-inflammatory options and avoid the inflammatory options, you may be able to ease arthritis pain and symptoms.
Here’s a guide to the food choices you should steer clear of in order to help your arthritis.
Avoid processed foods such as baked goods and prepackaged meals and snacks. These items contain trans fats to help preserve them, and trans fats trigger systemic inflammation. To dodge trans fats, avoid any foods labeled as containing partially hydrogenated oils.
Foods that contain refined sugar—including pastries, chocolate, candy, soda, and even fruit juices—trigger the release of proteins in the body called cytokines, which cause inflammation. Sugar is labeled many ways in food items; in addition to sugar, watch for corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, or maltose in the ingredient list.
Red meat and fried foods
Meat—especially red meat—is high in saturated fats, which cause high cholesterol and inflammation. On top of this, meat also contains high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that stimulate inflammation, particularly when meat is cooked by broiling, grilling, roasting, or frying it.1
It’s not just fried chicken you should avoid, though. Other fried foods, such as donuts and French fries, contain trans fats in addition to AGEs.
This includes white bread, white pasta, and crackers. Refined grains (as opposed to whole grain products) cause a spike in blood glucose level, which has been shown to increase levels of several inflammation-markers in the body.
Another factor to consider about grains: People with gluten sensitivities may experience joint pain and inflammation from consuming wheat products.
Cheese and high-fat dairy
Cheese, butter, cream cheese, margarine, and mayonnaise are all high is both saturated fats and AGEs—they’re big inflammation triggers and should be consumed sparingly.
Corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, and soy oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are healthy in small doses. But excessive omega-6 consumption can trigger inflammatory chemicals.
This is not the case for the types of oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as olive, canola, and flaxseed oils. These varieties are healthy, even in larger amounts.
Avoiding foods and drinks that trigger inflammation is not just good for your arthritis. An anti-inflammatory diet can also help prevent other chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Before you despair that everything tasty seems to be off-limits if you want to practice an anti-inflammatory diet, keep in mind that a few simple swaps can often make the difference between healthy and unhealthy food choices. For example, cook with canola oil instead of corn oil, or swap out white bread for whole grain bread.
- Uribarri J, Woodruff S, Goodman S, et al. Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):911-16.e12.