Foods that Cause Joint Inflammation


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Healthy joints make movement possible. When your joints become sore and inflamed, your daily activities can be severely restricted or slowed. Although genetics can influence your risk of joint problems, most of us face declining joint health as we age. [1]

Nutrition plays a critical role in keeping your joints flexible and pain-free. Depending on your choice of foods, your meals and snacks can trigger inflammation in your joint tissue or protect your joints from inflammation and damage. [2]

Keep your joints in motion longer by making these best food choices for their health.

Which Foods Cause Inflammation of Joints?

Foods that cause joint inflammation

If you’re suffering from sore, arthritic joints, it’s important to know which foods may trigger your inflammation. [2] Many foods found in a typical western diet are linked with inflammation and a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). [2] The following food categories are recognized triggers for inflammation and should be limited whenever possible:

Refined Carbohydrates

Sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, such as confections, white rice, and white bread, are known drivers of inflammation in the body. These high glycemic index foods are also risk factors for arthritic joints through their relationship with insulin resistance and obesity. [2]

A study found that women who drank one or more sugary sodas per day had a 63% higher risk of RA than women who did not drink soda. [3] Highly refined carbohydrates cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise quickly. Such heavy glycemic loads can stimulate inflammation and over time lead to insulin resistance. [3]

Red Meat

Some health studies show that a high intake of red meat is associated with an earlier onset of the inflammatory condition RA. [4] Cooked red meat has multiple components that trigger inflammation. Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) are inflammatory compounds that form through browning reactions when red meat is cooked at high temperatures. AGEs can build up in your bones, joints, and muscles, and are a known factor in osteoarthritis. [4] Red meat also contains saturated fat, while many types of processed meats contain preservatives, both of which cause inflammation. [5]


Are tomatoes bad for arthritis? There’s no mistaking that tomatoes are a delicious and nourishing fruit, but they may add to joint aches and pains in some people with arthritis. This is because tomatoes and other nightshade foods, such as potatoes and eggplant, contain glycoalkaloids. [6] These nitrogen compounds can lead to painful inflammation, which is why some experts recommend that people with arthritis avoid eating tomatoes and other nightshade foods. [6]


Gluten, a form of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is often in the spotlight as a trigger for celiac disease, however; gluten and arthritis may also be linked. Research shows that gluten can work as an antigen that changes the body’s immune response, triggering inflammation. Arthritis patients who follow gluten-free vegan diets have been shown to experience fewer painful symptoms. [2]

Salty Foods

A high sodium diet is linked with inflammation and being overweight—two factors that are bad for your joints. Eating too much salt has been found to raise the body’s level of an inflammatory protein called TNF-α which is involved in chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease. [7]

People who take corticosteroids to relieve inflammation need to be extra careful about their salt intake because this medication causes the body to retain more salt. [8] If you are salt sensitive, prioritize home-cooked meals and try limiting your intake of:

  • Canned goods
  • Frozen meals
  • Salted nuts and chips
  • Deli meats
  • Foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG)

In addition to avoiding foods that trigger inflammation, you can also help manage your arthritis and other joint pain symptoms by eating more of the foods that protect your body against inflammation and support joint structure.

Top Foods for Joint Health

Foods for Joint Health

Nature provides us with plenty of delicious and nourishing foods that counteract inflammation. All it takes is a quick trip to your local farmers' market or produce aisle to stock up on naturally sourced, minimally processed ingredients. A diet that is high in plant-based foods is also a great way to keep your weight at a healthy level and minimize its impact on your joints. [9]

Here are the best anti-inflammatory foods to keep at the top of your regular menu.

Polyphenol-rich Fruits, Vegetables, and Spices

Various plant-based foods are rich sources of antioxidants called polyphenols. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenols protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in joint cartilage. [10] Polyphenols also inhibit underlying mechanisms that cause osteoarthritis and help lower levels of inflammatory proteins associated with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. [10] [11] Fantastic polyphenol-rich foods that you can add to your diet include:

  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Spinach
  • Soybeans
  • Green tea
  • Black pepper and other spices


Salmon and tomatoes meal

Fish, especially oily fish like sardines, are a staple of the Mediterranean Diet and key players in managing joint health. [12] The reason is that oily fish are direct sources of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) involved in inhibiting inflammatory proteins responsible for arthritic pain. [13]

Fish are also good sources of vitamin D3 needed for building strong bones that connect to your joints. [14] If you have RA, eating fish two or more times per week has been shown to significantly lower levels of disease activity. [15]


Turmeric is one of the best anti-inflammatory foods for joint pain. Adding this spice to your diet is a great option if you’re looking to address pain and inflammation from degenerative joint conditions or physical activity. [16] [17] One clinical study found that curcumin, one of the active compounds in turmeric, reduced joint inflammation and pain in osteoarthritis patients as effectively as some common over-the-counter therapies. [16]


Broccoli is not only delicious, but it provides your body with joint-strengthening glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are needed for the body to make sulforaphane, which helps reduce inflammation in stressed joints and can slow the breakdown of joint cartilage that is responsible for osteoarthritis. [18] Eating a cup of broccoli also supplies close to the full recommended daily intake of vitamin K, which you need to build strong bones and shock-absorbing joint cartilage. [19] [20]


Fuelling your gut microbiome with a daily dose of probiotics can help protect your joints from inflammation. Your gut microbiome plays an important role in your immune system function and helps strengthen your gut barrier against inflammation-triggering antigens. [21] Fermented foods are fantastic sources of probiotics, including:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Miso (low sodium)
  • Sauerkraut or kimchi (low sodium)


If you are having trouble fitting enough of these joint health foods into your regular diet, supplements can be a wonderful alternative. Two supplements recommended by our joint health experts are:

  • Triple Strength Omega-3 EPA/DHA with 900 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per softgel. This fish oil formula features clear enteric softgel technology that is better absorbed and prevents fishy aftertaste.
  • Ultra-Strength Turmeric Curcumin for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection of your joints. Each capsule contains 500 mg of 65:1 turmeric extract standardized to 95% of curcuminoids with black pepper extract to enhance its absorption.

Your diet is a critical part of keeping your joints healthy. Limiting your intake of the foods that promote inflammation while eating more of the foods that protect against oxidative stress, inflammation, and joint degeneration can go a long way to reducing joint pain and keeping you active.

Patience Lister, BSc

Patience Lister, BSc

A wellness writer who helps to inspire healthier & more sustainable food and supplement choices.

References :

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3. Yang Hu, Costenbader KH, Gao X, et al. Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014; 100(3):959–967. 
4. Chen JH, Lin X, Bu C, et al. Role of advanced glycation end products in mobility and considerations in possible dietary and nutritional intervention strategies. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018; 15:72. 
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9. Arthritis Society Canada. Osteoarthritis self-management. 2022. Available from: 
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16. Kuptniratsaikul V, Dajpratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, et al. (2014). Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: A multicenter study. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2014; 9:451–458. 
17. Kolimechkov S, Douglas D, Izov N, et al. The effect of turmeric and its compounds in athletes: mini review. Kinesiologia Slovenica 2022; 28(1):83-95. 
18. Davidson R, Gardner S, Jupp O, et al. Isothiocyanates are detected in human synovial fluid following broccoli consumption and can affect the tissues of the knee joint. Sci Rep. 2017; 7:3398. 
19. Liu M, Zhang L, Ser SL, et al. Comparative phytonutrient analysis of broccoli by-products: The potentials for broccoli by-product utilization. Molecules. 2018; 23(4):900. 
20. Chin KY. The relationship between vitamin K and osteoarthritis: A review of current evidence. Nutrients. 2020; 12(5):1208. 
21. Bungau SG, Behl T, Singh A, et al. Targeting probiotics in rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrients. 2021; 13(10):3376

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