9 Worst Foods for Arthritis That You Should Avoid

worst foods for arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the body, and it usually causes pain and mobility difficulties. While individuals of all ages can be affected by this condition , it is more common among older adults.

Fortunately, with proper treatment and management, older people with arthritis can lead active and independent lives. One of the best ways to ease arthritis symptoms is maintaining a healthy diet. During meal planning, your older loved ones should avoid food items that may cause or increase inflammation in the body.

At Seasons Retirement, we are fully committed to ensuring our residents live a happy and healthy lifestyle, regardless of their fitness level. Our Health & Wellness team is always on hand to discuss and review your older relative’s meals.

In this piece, we’ve compiled a list of some of the worst foods for arthritis that your parents or grandparents should avoid, and they include:

   1. Added Sugars

There is always the talk about older adults cutting back on their sugar intake, and rightly so. Sugary foods and sweets are probably the worst food for arthritis, and should be avoided by arthritic people. High sugar consumption increases inflammation in the body, which is the primary symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.

A scientific study that involved 217 people with rheumatoid arthritis found that among more than 15 types of foods, sweetened soda and desserts were found to be most likely to exacerbate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Additionally, according to multiple studies, taking sugary beverages may significantly increase an older adult’s risk of developing arthritis. Hence, you should encourage your older ones to reduce their sugar intake.

   2. Gluten Foods

Gluten, one of the top 5 worst foods for arthritis, is a group of structural proteins found in specific cereal grains, such as wheat, barley, rye, and critical. Since several studies associate gluten with increased inflammation in the body, incorporating gluten-free food in your meal plan may help prevent the aggravation of arthritis symptoms.

Moreover, people with celiac disease — an immune reaction to gluten — have shown a greater risk of developing arthritis. Likewise, for any individuals that already have autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis there is a much higher chance of also experiencing celiac disease when compared to others within the population. These facts further highlight the links between arthritis, celiac disease, and gluten. 

However, it is worth mentioning that studies on whether a gluten-free diet can relieve arthritis symptoms is rather premature at this time, as more extensive research is still required to confirm the theory.

   3. Highly Processed Foods

Ultra processed food items, one of the worst foods for arthritis, often contain high amounts of refined grains, added sugar, preservatives, and other inflammatory ingredients that are known to worsen arthritis symptoms. Fast foods, breakfast cereals, and baked goods are examples of food items in this category.

Research suggests that Western diets rich in highly-processed food may increase an older adult’s risk of arthritis, due to the increased chances of inflammation and obesity, among other risk factors. Instead, aim for natural foods that the body can process more easily, such as whole fruits and vegetables.

   4. Processed and Red Meats

Some studies link red and processed meat to increased arthritis symptoms, as these foods can cause inflammation in the body.

For instance, diets rich in processed and red meats typically contain high amounts of interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and homocysteine, which acts as inflammatory markers in the body. On the other hand, plant-based diets have been found to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis in older adults.

   5. Fatty Foods

According to the Arthritis Foundation, older adults with arthritis should reduce their consumption of all kinds of fatty foods because several kinds of fat are known to increase inflammation in the body.

Omega-6-rich foods, like vegetable oils, are not unhealthy when consumed in moderation, and so, your older ones should monitor their intake to manage their arthritis symptoms properly. On the flip side, increased consumption of Omega-3-rich foods, like fatty fish, may improve arthritis symptoms and help with joint pain.

Meanwhile, trans fats are the kinds of fat to avoid at all costs. In fact, they are also unhealthy for people without rheumatoid arthritis, as they raise the cholesterol level in the body, increasing the risk of developing the condition.

   6. Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the beverages found to worsen arthritis symptoms. So, it is recommended that people with arthritis cut back on their alcohol intake or avoid it altogether.

After all, various studies have shown that there may be a link between alcohol consumption, osteoarthritis, and other related conditions.

   7. Salty Foods

Foods with high salt content are some of the worst foods for arthritis. Shrimps, canned soup, pizza, certain cheeses, and processed meats are a few examples of salty foods.

A mouse study discovered that low-salt diets reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, unlike a high-salt diet. Moreover, numerous researchers have suggested that high sodium consumption may be a predisposing factor to autoimmune conditions, including inflammatory arthritis. In essence, reducing salt intake will do your older relative with arthritis a world of good. 

   8. Nightshades

Nightshades refer to a group of vegetables and food items that contain solanine — a glycoalkaloid compound that can be toxic to the body, especially when consumed in significant quantities. Tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, chilli peppers, and potatoes are the most popular members of this food group.

Indeed, research studies are yet to establish whether nightshades can trigger arthritis pain. However, scientists have suggested that removing these food items from their diets can help older people manage their arthritis symptoms better.

   9. Dairy

It might be a little surprising to find dairy on this list because it provides the body with nutrients such as calcium and protein. However, dairy also contains casein, which is known to increase inflammation.

Reducing their dairy consumption will go a long way to help your older ones minimize joint inflammation and pain.


Eating a nutritious diet is one of the most effective ways for older people with arthritis to manage their symptoms. Hence, it is essential for your parents or grandparents to add healthy meals to their diet and avoid the aforementioned 8 foods that cause joint pain.

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