Arthritis affects nearly 50 million people in the U.S. For those people with arthritis, painful joints from waking to sleeping may be part of their daily reality. Fortunately, there are arthritis healthy foods that can help manage pain naturally. In this edition of Eat This, Not That, we look at some arthritis healthy swaps and recipes to help reduce pain and inflammation, and maybe lose some weight to help relieve pressure on affected joints.

Instead of: Coffee for breakfast

You know the story: no coffee, no workie. But your morning caffeine fix may not be doing your body any favors, and the extra sugar and cream in your triple-shot venti vanilla caramel latte may actually be causing harm.

Try: Green tea

Green tea has caffeine in it to give you a gentle wake-up call in the morning, but it also comes with some important arthritis healthy benefits. Green tea is rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenolic compounds that help reduce pain and inflammation in arthritic joints. The recommended amount is three cups daily, and it can be served hot or iced.

Green tea also helps regulate blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, and, in one study, contributed to weight loss when paired with exercise. Instead of reaching for a soda, have a cup of green tea to eliminate sugar and calories.

Instead of: Lettuce

It’s always good to reach for a big salad, but if your lettuce of choice is iceberg, you aren’t doing much for your body beyond staying hydrated. Iceberg lettuce is the most popular type of lettuce in the U.S. It stays fresh for a long time, has a satisfying crunch, and feels like a healthy choice. But truthfully, iceberg is 96% water, and while it has some nutritional value, it’s pretty flabby as far as vegetables go.

Try: Broccoli and carrots

Let’s be clear: nobody is knocking salad as a healthy food choice, but when it comes to fighting arthritis pain, broccoli is a nutritional one-two knockout punch. Not only does broccoli help prevent cancer, but it can also prevent the formation of inflammation causing, cartilage-destroying compounds. This can help prevent osteoarthritis before it starts. All cruciferous veggies have these properties, so tuck into a big plate of cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, too.

For delicious ways to get your RDA of broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, check out this Pinterest board that specializes in these vegetables alone. Most of the recipes posted can use each of these vegetables interchangeably, adding variety and catering to those who might favor one vegetable over the other.

Carrots are ubiquitous year-round, and with good reason. They are chock full of beta carotene and taste delicious. Even the pickiest eaters will tuck into a handful of carrots. Bright orange vegetables are filled with anti-oxidants that are notorious for helping cells stay healthy. Raw or cooked, carrots are another excellent arthritis healthy food.

Instead of: Literally any other protein

In the U.S., people are very focused on consuming protein, but the reality is that the majority of people actually consume more protein than they need. Much of it is low-quality protein in the form of cheap meats and fast food. Not only does this overconsumption of animal-based protein increase our waistlines, but it also does nothing to help manage arthritis.

Try: Fatty fish

Research on the value of omega-3s for healthy hearts and joints is overwhelming. By now, most people know that omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of preventing heart disease. New research continues to prove that fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines, and mackerel is the best way to incorporate this food into your diet. Aim for two servings a week, an easy goal with recipes for salmon two ways with five sauces and overloaded Pinterest boards like these. Wild salmon is in season now, so stock up when prices are low and freeze in three-ounce portions.

Instead of: White flour pasta

As days get shorter and nights get chillier, nothing is more comforting than a steaming bowl of pasta. How about a massive pain flare-up to go with that? Turns out, highly processed white flour can cause inflammation in the joints, and for people with gluten sensitivity, the effects can be exacerbated. Not so comforting after all!

Try: Whole grain, quinoa, or vegetable pasta

New whole grain pastas, including gluten free varieties made from the high-protein grain quinoa, are an excellent way to eliminate inflammation-causing processed white flour. Focus on sauces that boost the anti-inflammatory power of the pasta. Try this allergy-friendly red pepper sauce (no tomatoes!) or skip the traditional pasta altogether, using rutabaga “roodles” with wild salmon for a delicious, gluten free meal.

Instead of: General A-Z vitamin supplement

You may think you are doing your body good by popping a daily all-in-one vitamin, but you may be getting too much of what you don’t need and not enough of what you do.

Try: Targeted vitamins and minerals, like zinc

According to a study in 2014, depletion of zinc in the body may be responsible for joint degeneration. Beef, lamb, and pork are high in zinc, as are almonds and pumpkin seeds. While getting vitamins and minerals from food is always the best way, sometimes a supplement is necessary. Don’t waste money on all of the vitamins if you just need one.

If you would prefer to change your diet to include more zinc-rich foods without adding fat or cholesterol, try this recipe for spicy pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds). This is a great seasonal snack with inflammation-fighting cayenne and Ancho chilies.

Pinterest is a wealth of recipes and information for those trying to eat an arthritis healthy diet. Check out more recipes, and tell us which ones you try!


Weekly updates on conditions, treatments, and news about everything happening inside pain medicine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!