Some people find that making changes to their diet improves their arthritis symptoms. This may involve avoiding inflammatory foods, such as saturated fat and sugar. It may also involve avoiding foods that are high in purines. Read on to find out which foods to avoid with arthritis!

Inflammatory fats

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Several types of fat increase inflammation in the body. According to the Arthritis Foundation, a person with arthritis should limit:

  • Omega 6 fatty acids: These include oils, such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and vegetable oil. Omega 6 fatty acids are not harmful in moderation, but many people in America consume a lot of them.
  • Saturated fat: Meat, butter, and cheese contain this type of fat. Saturated fat should account for less than 10% of someone’s total calorie intake per day.
  • Trans fats: This type of fat is harmful to human health because it reduces “good” cholesterol, increases “bad” cholesterol, and raises inflammation levels. Manufacturers have been removing trans fats from most prepared foods over the last few years but check the nutrition facts panel to be sure.


0308 powdered sugar

One study in Nutrients indicates that people who drink regular sugar-sweetened soda have an increased risk of RA. Harvard Health notes that excess sugar consumption also increases the risk of dying from heart disease. It can also lead to obesity, inflammation, and other chronic diseases.

Many products contain added sugars. Always check food labels on breakfast cereals, sauces, and soft drinks, as these may contain surprising amounts of added sugars.

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

AGEs are inflammatory compounds that can accumulate in tissues, particularly as someone ages. An article in Patient Education explains that people with diseases such as diabetes and RA often have increased AGE levels. So, reducing AGE levels may help reduce inflammation.

Fat and sugar both increase AGE levels in the body. Some food processing methods and high-temperature cooking also increase the AGE levels in food.


0547 eggplant lentils and tomatoes

Nightshades are a group of vegetables that contain the compound solanine. Studies have not confirmed that nightshades can trigger arthritis pain, but the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine indicates that removing them from the diet helps improve symptoms in some people.

Nightshade vegetables include:

  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • chili peppers
  • eggplant
  • potatoes

The Arthritis Foundation advises that people who suspect nightshades might exacerbate symptoms exclude them from their diet for a couple of weeks, then reintroduce them one at a time.

Keeping a food diary may help a person keep track of any reactions they have to a specific food.

Foods high in purines

For people who have gout, a doctor may advise a low purine diet combined with the medication.

Purines are substances in foods that the body converts to uric acid. Uric acid can build up in the bloodstream, causing a gout attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following foods are high in purines:

  • red meat
  • organ meat, such as liver
  • beer and other alcohol
  • cured meats such as ham, bacon, or lunch meats
  • some seafood, such as mussels and scallops

However, a 2018 review identified that some purine-rich vegetables, such as cauliflower, mushrooms, and beans, have no links to gout risk, according to MedicalNewsToday.

High-Sodium Frozen Meals

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A particularly nefarious option for those with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, is high-sodium foods. "When you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may want to limit the amount of sodium that you eat. This is because corticosteroids that are often used to treat this type of arthritis can cause you to hold onto more salt," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. "And regularly taking in large amounts of sodium can increase inflammation in your body. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may want to consider limiting your daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams."

Polyunsaturated Cooking Oils

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Do you cook with corn, soybean, canola, safflower, and sunflower oils? "These oils are commonly used in restaurants and at home and are high in omega-6 fatty acids, but very low in omega 3s," Shapiro says. "This imbalance can lead to inflammation, and since most individuals do not get enough omega-3s (from sources such as salmon, flax, walnuts, and chia) to balance out these oils, arthritic symptoms can worsen."

White Rice

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"White rice is a refined carbohydrate that may cause a spike in our blood sugar and can increase inflammation markers in our body, worsening the side effects of arthritis," comments Keri Gans, MS, RDN. Instead of this nutrient-lacking carb, load up on whole grains like farro, kamut, spelt berries, and brown rice.


5944 margarine

In case you didn't get the memo that this once-omnipresent butter substitute is a no-go, consider this: "Most margarines are made from trans fats. Trans fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, and cancer," says Meg Marie O'Rourke, RD-LDN. "Vegetable oils such as corn oil are put through a process called hydrogenation, changing the chemical formation from a Cis to a Trans. Trans fats are found in many [sweets such as cakes, cookies, and pie crust] and increase biomarkers of inflammation."


5643 sausage links

"Sausage is a processed meat, and all processed meats are high in AGEs (advanced glycation end products) that trigger inflammation in the body and worsen arthritis symptoms," note The Nutrition Twins. "While all meats contain AGEs, processed ones contain more." If you must indulge, consider our list of the best hot dogs and sausages for weight loss, cites

Full-Fat Cheese

5641 blue cheese on cheese board with crostinis and purple grapes
Before you melt some on your mac or sizzle up your next grilled cheese, know this: "Most cheeses contain a high amount of saturated fats, and saturated fats have been shown to be an inflammation trigger not only for heart disease but arthritis as well," says Gans.
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