Arthritis Best Foods

Nov 20, 2023

Edited and Updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD
Written by Samantha Holmgren, RD (guest on podcast and blog contributor)

Arthritis Best Foods

A question that often gets asked is, “What are the best foods for arthritis?” These foods can help you balance the inflammation in your body, reduce health risks, and, best of all, help you feel better.

However, there is one caveat.

There is no food so wonderful that it will permanently grant health and there is no food so terrible that it will permanently ruin your health — unless you have an anaphylactic reaction or get the worst food poisoning ever. That sort of black-and-white thinking gets in the way of making real changes that can help you feel better.
Focus on making small changes that shift you towards a more balanced lifestyle that feeds your wellness. One place to start is to include the following foods in your diet.

1. Fatty Fish for those omega-3 fats

Diets that include fatty fish, like salmon, trout or herring, have been associated with positive health outcomes. In addition to reducing risk and helping manage heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes and other metabolic conditions, diets that include fatty fish can also help with arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3 supplements can also help people with arthritis feel better and have less pain. In one review, people who took omega-3 supplements were able to reduce the amount of NSAIDs (medications such as Advil or Aleve).

Omega-3 fats help by balancing the inflammation in our body. While inflammation is a necessary part of our immune system, chronic inflammation is detrimental. Omega-3 fats are used to make compounds that help to balance and calm the inflammatory processes.

When we talk about omega-3s fats, we also need to talk about omega-6 fats. Some amount is necessary; just like inflammation is necessary. However, most of us are eating far more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats, creating an imbalance in our body. Therefore, while you are increasing your intake of fish and seeds like flax or chia, try to reduce fat intake from soybean, sunflower, safflower, and hydrogenated (or processed) fats.

Another type of healthy fat is…

2. Olive oil

This is a popular ‘healthy fat’ and for good reason. One study was a meta-analysis that looked at the effects of olive oil on inflammatory markers. This study was particularly concerned with the heart health impacts of inflammation; however, that is also relevant to arthritis because, particularly with inflammatory arthritis, you have a higher risk of heart disease due to the inflammation. Six of the studies included in that meta-analysis compared olive oil and omega-3s. They had a very similar anti-inflammatory effect, with olive oil actually having a slight edge. In real life, you don’t have to choose between them, but it goes to show just how powerful olive oil is.

Replacing some of those sources of omega-6 oils with olive oil will help your body get into a better balance, as well as providing antioxidant and antinflammatory benefits directly.

You may also find it interesting to know that the same compounds in olive oil that are anti-inflammatory in our bodies are also a great food source for the bacteria in our intestines. So olive oil is also a prebiotic and therefore good for our gut.

3. Colourful Fruits & Veggies

The same compounds that give fruits and vegetables their color are also antioxidants. In popular media, antioxidants tend to be associated with anti-aging, but they are also relevant when it comes to inflammation. Oxidative stress happens when your body has an imbalance of pro-oxidants and antioxidants and oxidative stress triggers inflammation, so having a diet filled with antioxidants from colourful fruits and veggies, as well as olive oil offers your health a huge benefit.

However, I don’t recommend going out and taking a supplement purely because it is an ‘antioxidant.’ If you include too many antioxidants, it is still an imbalance and therefore causes oxidative stress. However, that’s not an issue when it comes to eating food. So focus on adding colourful fruits and veggies to your plate.

4. Less processed food

Processing exists on a spectrum, and some processing is super helpful and healthy. Think of frozen vegetables: Depending on where you live and the time of year, the frozen vegetables are often less expensive and therefore more accessible and it can actually be fresher than the “fresh” vegetables. Frozen food stays stable and doesn’t mold or wilt.

Pulling a carrot out of the ground and knocking the dirt off gives you an unprocessed food. Nothing has been done to it.

Chopping that carrot up and cooking it is a form of processing.

Grinding wheat down into a flour is a form of processing.

Combining ingredients to make a homemade soup is a form of processing.
The far end of the spectrum includes highly processed foods created in a factory from ingredients that are extracted from food but that aren’t food on their own. Again, this can be a net positive in some cases. Vitamin and mineral supplementation or enrichment is a significant form of processing but it can have significant health impacts, such as when we started adding iodine to table salt or folic acid to wheat flour, these both improved public health, and were only possible due to processing.

However… processed food also frequently strips out fibre, vitamins, and minerals. It adds ingredients that some people are sensitive to or that may disrupt the intestinal microflora. Science Vs actually did a great podcast episode on processed food that also digs into this.

But it’s a significant grey area. The old adage about ‘everything in moderation’ line is applicable here. Including some processed foods is perfectly fine, but a lot isn’t good for you nor does it feel good.

Bottom line on processing is:

  • Eat fewer foods that are highly processed
  • Eat foods that are less processed more often (i.e. more on the pluck a veggie out of the garden end of the spectrum)

5. The Mediterranean Diet

The go-to anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean Diet. It combines everything I mentioned above: the fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish. It also emphasizes cooking at home (less processed foods). And it has been heavily studied in many different contexts so there is a lot of evidence to support following this diet. Even if it doesn’t have a major impact on your day-to-day arthritis pain, it is still helping you.

People with inflammatory health conditions, including most types of arthritis, are at an increased risk of heart disease because of the inflammation. So eating in alignment with the Mediterranean Diet can help counter that risk and improve your overall health.

The Mediterranean Diet tidily answers the question of “what.” However, the other part of the equation is the “how” of eating.

6. Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a key part of the equation. I have been a dietitian for over decade now, and I’ve seen over and over again how powerful mindful eating can be for people. It helps to break through a lot of the mental barriers we can put up around food, the disordered eating habits that we absorb living in the diet and weight obsessed culture we live in.

It also helps you reconnect with your body signals. It is so tempting to try to ignore your body when you have chronic pain and fatigue. And there are times when you just have to push through the pain and do the thing anyway because if you waited until you felt good you’d never do anything because you have chronic pain. However, those body signals are giving you information. Being able to take that information into account in your planning and how you move through the world can help you feel better in the long run.

Samantha is a registered dietitian who lives with psoriatic arthritis. She focuses on moving towards balance and wellness while living with chronic pain and fatigue. At the heart of her work is a focus on mindfulness and making small changes that have outsized impacts — the Bare Minimum Health Plan.

Samantha is passionate about helping people reconnect to their body through experiencing the pleasure and joy of eating. She loves seeing people move towards balance and wellness intuitively as they reconnect with their body wisdom.

Listen in to Episode

#99 on My Wife the Dietitian – Arthritis Best Foods, Samantha

Podcast – Sandra Gentleman, or on YouTube.

My Wife the Dietitian

More Blog Posts

Benefits of Collagen

Article written by Sandra Gentleman, RDBenefits of Collagen In recent years, collagen has taken the health and wellness world by storm, captivating the attention of consumers seeking to enhance their skin, hair, nail, gut and joint, and overall health. While collagen...

Longevity Foods

Article written by Liz Weiss, MS, RDN (podcast guest)Edited by Sandra Gentleman, RDHow to Eat like a Centenarian: Longevity Foods for a Longer, Healthier Life When it comes to nutrition for longevity, I like to take a page from the Blue Zones.The Blue Zones are five...

Eat Well Feel Better

Written by Mindy Yoder, RDN, CDN (podcast guest)Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDMany people have a goal to lose weight…. Many people have a goal to lose weight…. and after deeper exploration and reflection to find what's driving their reasons for wanting to...

What is a Poke Bowl

Written by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDWhat is a Poke Bowl: A Dive Into Hawaii’s Trendy Dish Pertaining to food trends and growing popularity, the poke bowl is making a name for itself. You may have seen poke bowls pop up on social...

Food Addiction Symptoms

Article written by Dr. Vera Tarman (podcast guest)Edited by Sandra Gentleman, RDFood Addiction: Yes, it is a real thing Food addiction is a controversial yet increasingly recognized condition. Although not yet included as a diagnosis in the DSM-5, a growing body of...

Healthy Cookware

Author Sarah Glinski, RDEdited by Sandra Gentleman, RDYour Complete Guide to Healthy Cookware While many of us focus on what we eat, we often forget to consider how we prepare our food. From cast iron to stainless steel to non-stick, there are endless options for...

Peaceful Practices

Written by Alden Carroll, MSW, LCSW (guest on podcast and blog contributor)Edited and Updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDPeaceful Practices I don’t have time for myself. There is so much to do. If I rest, I’m being lazy. When I think of myself first, I’m being selfish....

Vanlife – Food Hacks to Eat Healthy

Written by: Dominique Paquette@v.for.vanlife (Guest Writer and Podcast Guest Ep 86 Vanlife - Food Hacks to Eat Healthy)Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDVanlife Vanlife is a growing trend for people who want some adventures on the road and to explore and see...

Greek Yogurt vs Regular Yogurt: Which is Better for You?

By: Aly Bouzek, MS, RDNEdited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDGreek vs Regular Yogurt: Which is Better for You? Chances are, if you’ve ever walked past the refrigerated section in a grocery store, that you have noticed the yogurt section. Looking a little closer,...

Budget-Friendly Grocery Tips for Healthier Living

By: Joni Rampolla, MBA, RDN, LDN / Founder, Nutrition Coaching 4U/ and retail dietitianEdited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDBudget-Friendly Grocery Tips for Healthier Living Healthy eating is often associated with big grocery bills. This does not have to be true....

Key Differences Between Dirty, Lazy, and the Clean Keto Diet

By Rochelle Inwood / May 24, 2023 (Podcast guest) Edited and Updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDKey Differences Between Dirty, Lazy, and the Clean Keto Diet The Clean Keto Diet is one of the latest versions of the ketogenic (keto)diet. With so much information swirling...

Intuitive Eating  – What’s it all about?

Sandra Thies, RDRegistered DietitianCertified Intuitive Eating Counselor Guest writer and podcast guestWhat is Intuitive Eating? Intuitive Eating (IE) is “a self care eating framework which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought“. The concept and name was...

Shift Work: How to Eat Healthfully

Written by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDNEdited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD Shift Work: How to Eat Healthfully Is it possible to eat healthfully while working the night shift? How does timing and what you eat play into shift work and your health? We’ll answer all of...

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… In the Kitchen

By Meredith Cushing, RD, MS, MSHSE (Guest writer and podcast guest)Sequel to Ep 43 on My Wife the DietitianEarth Month – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… In the Kitchen - The Ultimate Guide -On the previous podcast episode, I talked about Rescued and Redistributed Food. We...

Family Eating Together

Written by Dr. Karrie Heneman, PhD in NutritionEdited and Updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDBenefits of Family Meals Family meals are one of the best ways to connect with your kids regularly. Finding time for difficult conversations can be challenging in today's...

7 Health Benefits of Avocado Smoothies

Written by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDNEdited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDAvocados have been increasing in popularity over the years due to their high healthy fat content. In 1985, 436 million pounds of avocado were consumed in the US. In 2020, more than 2.7 billion...

Diet Culture in the Fitness Industry

Diet Culture in the Fitness Industry Written by Lisa Duncan (guest writer and podcast guest)Owner/Operator of Activate Athletic Studio Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDI feel so much sadness for my younger self. I wish I could go back in time and make her...

Vegan For Runners

Written by Scott Fickerson - totalruncoaching.com (guest writer and podcast guest)Edited by Sandra Gentleman Vegan For Runners How can someone who eats only leaves and twigs be a strong runner? Isn’t that what many people facetiously think that vegans are eating?! Of...

Is Soy Yogurt High in Sugar?

Written by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDNEdited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RDWhat is Yogurt?   Dairy yogurt is made by fermenting milk with culture (also known as bacteria). All yogurts have active cultures (live bacteria) and some are a probiotic that can help with...

Rescued and Redistributed Food

Rescued and Redistributed Food By Meredith Cushing, RD, MS, MSHSE (Guest writer and podcast guest)Food Price Hikes Lead to Food Insecurity Food prices at the grocery store have increased on average by 11% with some food items having increased more than 30%.  Food...

Black Beans vs Pinto Beans

Black Beans vs Pinto Beans With the vegetarian movement and the push to incorporate more plant proteins, beans seem like a better alternative to tofu for many. With the familiar kid chant rhyme “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart……”, there’s a few...

Fatty Liver – Put your Liver on a Diet

Fatty Liver Fatty liver, otherwise known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) , has become a global epidemic in the last decade. One quarter to a third of the adult population in North America has fatty liver and many don’t know it. One in ten children also...

Water, Water Everywhere – Not Just a Mirage for Good Health

Hydration with Water - Why it’s important H2o is an essential element that we can easily take for granted. Many people did not grow up prioritizing drinking water. A few years ago, athletes were the ones who would carry around water bottles. Nowadays, people of all...

Change Your Environment to Help Change Your Health

Do you rely on willpower and dieting when you are trying to lose weight and improve health? As the North American population expands in their waistlines and the number of diets continues to grow, something is out of balance and isn't working for the majority. Life is...

Eating Together

Do you eat alone many times a week, or know someone who does? People who share meals together generally eat more nutritious foods regularly and have better nutritional status overall. There are many seniors living at home, who may eat meals alone much of the time....

Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to Cost Your Retirement Savings

With Skyrocketing food costs rising faster than inflation, one sentiment commonly heard is “it’s too expensive to eat healthy!” Buying fresh produce, meat and dairy seem out of reach with the current climate. Where does our money go? By keeping track of spending for a...

Chronic Inflammation – Can Diet Fuel The Flame?

Chronic Inflammation - Can Diet Fuel The Flame?  Running short on time and don’t have a plan for dinner? The drive-through is always open and the burger combo with fries and soft drink will satisfy those hunger pangs. Fast foods, ultra-processed and packaged products,...

Eating and Breathing. Essentials for Life

Eating and Breathing. Essentials for Life Many people are surprised to learn that foods can affect breathing, especially if there is a chronic lung condition, such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema. Recent, frequent air quality advisories in the the city can impact...