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Eating Right for Arthritis

eat right arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in the country.  And while it primarily affects older adults, it can also affect those with a history of joint injuries. 

Age, weight, ethnicity, and occupation can all be risk factors for osteoarthritis. 

The good news is that osteoarthritis can be positively affected by the way you eat! 

In addition to eating lots of fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy weight, eating certain foods and getting specific nutrients can lessen the inflammation and ease the pain of arthritis.  

Foods and nutrients that can help arthritis

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in cold-water fish, can help reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. 

You can take a fish oil supplement, but there are also many ways to get omerga-3 fatty acids through your diet. 

The best fish sources are salmon, tuna, lake trout, and canned varieties like sardines and anchovies. 

Omega-3s can also be found in olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed, soybeans, winter squash, and walnuts.

For pregnant or nursing women, the FDA recommends limiting consumption of seafood to twice a week and avoiding albacore tuna, chunk white tuna, and tuna steak due to the potential for high mercury levels. 

The FDA recommends that everyone avoid king mackerel, swordfish, shark, and tilefish. 

Vitamin C

Getting the right amount of vitamin C – the USDA recommendation is 75 mg per day – is important for collagen production and maintaining healthy joints.

When it comes to vitamin C, you might think only of oranges and other citrus fruits, but other great sources of vitamin C are broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, watermelon, mango, kiwi, pineapple, red bell peppers, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.  

Vitamin D

Chronic low levels of vitamin D can cause osteoarthritis to progress more rapidly and are associated with an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. 

Getting your vitamin D from the sun is best – your body needs just 10-15 minutes a day, but avoid the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

If you aren’t getting enough sun, vitamin D can also be obtained from foods or supplements; it is found in fortified dairy products and in liver and eggs.


Calcium is important for maintaining healthy bones and lessening the risk of osteoarthritis. 

Milk and dairy products are great sources of calcium, but you can get it just as easily from the salad bar as the ice cream counter. 

Romaine and Bibb lettuce, spinach, kale, and broccoli are all good sources of calcium, as are canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones) and figs. 


Antioxidants should be part of anyone’s healthy diet but are an especially important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. 

Generally, the darker the fruit or vegetable, the higher it is in antioxidants. 

Try berries (raspberries, blueberries, lingonberries, boysenberries), cherries, plums, red or black grapes, kale, eggplant -- and even dark chocolate!

Spice it up!

One of the best ways to fight arthritis inflammation through food is to add certain spices to your meals. 

These spices are powerful sources of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties to reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis.

Sampling cuisine from around the world makes it easy to incorporate these spices into your diet:

Turmeric, a key ingredient in yellow curry dishes, helps fight inflammation and reduce swelling.

Try eating Indian curry several times a week, or take a supplement (1,000 mg twice a day).

Ginger fights inflammation. It’s particularly effective if your arthritis gets worse in cold weather because ginger helps increase blood flow and warm up your joints.

You can drink ginger tea, use ginger in cooking, take a supplement (500 mg three times a day) or use ginger essential oil as a topical treatment.

Rosemary contains antioxidants and phytochemicals to reduce inflammation and promote pain relief.

Rosemary can be used fresh or dried and is common in Mediterranean cuisine. Its essential oil can also be used topically.

Rosemary should not be used for treatment if you are pregnant.

As with any supplement or treatment, check with your doctor before using.

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