Changes to a person’s diet may help them manage osteoarthritis symptoms. Eating certain foods and avoiding or limiting others may help with managing inflammation associated with arthritis, reducing cholesterol, and more.

Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage in the joints breaks down over time. The condition can affect any joint in the body, but people often notice it in their knees, hands, hips, or spine.

This article looks at which foods people with osteoarthritis may consider including in their diet and which are best to avoid. It also discusses some common food myths regarding arthritis.

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It is not possible for specific foods or nutritional supplements to cure osteoarthritis. However, according to the Arthritis Foundation, certain diets can improve people’s symptoms.

Some foods have anti-inflammatory capabilities, which can help reduce symptoms, while other foods may amplify them.

The right diet can help improve osteoarthritis in numerous ways.

Reducing inflammation and preventing damage

A balanced, nutritious eating plan that includes foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, will give the body the nutrients it needs to prevent further damage to the joints, which is essential for people with osteoarthritis.

Some foods are known to reduce inflammation in the body, and following an anti-inflammatory diet can improve symptoms. Eating enough antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, may help prevent further damage to the joints.

Reducing cholesterol

There may be links between osteoarthritis, cholesterol, and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Reducing cholesterol may reduce this risk.

A person’s doctor can check their cholesterol levels and advise on ways to manage their cholesterol where necessary.

Maintaining a moderate weight

Having overweight can put extra pressure on the joints, and excess fat stores in the body can cause further inflammation. Following a dietary pattern that supports a person in maintaining a moderate weight can lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

A dietitian can help a person create an eating plan that ensures they get enough calories and essential nutrients while helping them maintain a moderate weight.

Including specific foods in the diet can strengthen the bones, muscles, and joints. They may also help the body fight inflammation and disease.

People with osteoarthritis can try adding the following foods to their diet to ease their symptoms.

Oily fish

Oily fish contain lots of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. These polyunsaturated fats have anti-inflammatory properties, so they may benefit people with osteoarthritis.

Examples of oily fish include:

  • herring
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • sprats
  • trout
  • pilchards

Learn more about oily fish.

Extra-virgin olive oil

In addition to oily fish, some other oils can reduce inflammation. Extra-virgin olive oil contains high levels of oleocanthal, which may have similar properties to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Avocado oil and safflower oil may also help lower cholesterol.


Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients increase bone strength, which may improve painful symptoms.

Dairy also contains proteins that can help build muscle. People who are aiming to manage their weight can choose low fat options.

Dark leafy greens

Dark leafy greens are rich in vitamins A, C, and K and stress-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants. They are also high in calcium, which makes up most of the structure of our bones.

Examples of dark leafy greens include:

  • spinach
  • kale
  • bok choy
  • Swiss chard
  • collard greens
  • Brussels sprouts
  • broccoli

Learn more about green leafy vegetables.


In addition to providing the health benefits of dark leafy greens, broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane, which researchers believe could slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

This vegetable is also rich in vitamins K and C, as well as bone-strengthening calcium.

Learn more about broccoli.


Scientists believe that a compound called diallyl disulfide that occurs in garlic may work against the enzymes in the body that damage cartilage.

A 2010 study indicated that a diet rich in garlic and other alliums can help protect against hip osteoarthritis. While more research into the benefits of garlic for existing osteoarthritis is necessary, it may help a person manage symptoms.


Nuts are good for the heart and contain high levels of calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and fiber. They also contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which boosts the immune system.

A person with osteoarthritis may consider adding the following nuts to their diet:

Green tea

Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that experts believe may be able to reduce inflammation and slow the rate of cartilage damage.

This means that drinking green tea may be beneficial for people with osteoarthritis, though more research is necessary.

Learn more about green tea.

Although more long-term studies are necessary, some research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for osteoarthritis.

The Mediterranean diet may help reduce the inflammation that contributes to the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Following the Mediterranean diet involves consuming:

  • fruit and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • legumes
  • fish
  • yogurt
  • healthful fats, such as olive oil and nuts

Learn more about the Mediterranean diet.

When someone is living with osteoarthritis, their body is in an inflammatory state.

While foods with anti-inflammatory properties may reduce symptoms, some foods contain substances that actively contribute to this inflammation. It is best to avoid or restrict these types of foods.


Processed sugars can prompt the release of cytokines, which act as inflammatory messengers in the body.

The sugars that manufacturers add to sweetened beverages largely contribute to the sugar intake in many people’s diets. This includes sugars added to:

  • soda
  • sweet tea
  • flavored coffees
  • some juice drinks

Reading labels on foods and drinks can help a person monitor their sugar intake.

Saturated fat

Foods high in saturated fat can cause inflammation in the fat tissue. This can worsen or speed up the progression of some types of osteoarthritis, such as knee osteoarthritis.

Foods high in saturated fats include:

  • fatty meats and meat products
  • cream
  • cheese
  • butter
  • chocolate
  • cakes and pastries
  • some oils, such as palm oil and coconut oil

Learn more about foods high in saturated fats.

Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) oxidants. These can stimulate inflammation in the body.

Examples of refined carbohydrates include:

  • white bread
  • white rice
  • potato chips

Learn more about refined carbohydrates.

Many people claim that certain types of food can make osteoarthritis worse, but there is not always scientific evidence to support these theories.

Do citrus fruits cause inflammation?

Some people believe that they should avoid citrus fruits because the acidity is inflammatory. However, this is not the case. In fact, citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory benefits, and they are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

However, grapefruit juice can interact with some medications that doctors use to treat arthritis. People who are undergoing treatment should check with a doctor before incorporating grapefruit into their diet.

Does avoiding dairy help with osteoarthritis?

There are also claims that avoiding dairy can help with osteoarthritis. However, milk, cheese, and other dairy products can have anti-inflammatory effects in some people.

A 2018 study found that people who had a higher intake of full fat dairy and Dutch cheese had a lower presence of knee osteoarthritis.

An elimination diet can help people determine whether their symptoms improve or worsen with dairy intake.

Do nightshade vegetables cause inflammation?

Some people claim that nightshade vegetables contribute to arthritis pain. Examples of these foods include:

  • tomatoes
  • eggplants
  • peppers
  • potatoes

However, the Arthritis Foundation points out that there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. Adding these nutritious vegetables to the diet can have many benefits for chronic health conditions.

Learn more about nightshade vegetables and arthritis.

Here are some frequently asked questions about osteoarthritis and diet.

What foods help fight osteoarthritis?

Certain foods can help a person manage osteoarthritis symptoms. These include oily fish, dairy, dark leafy greens, garlic, and nuts.

Should you eat eggs if you have osteoarthritis?

According to the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), most people can consume two eggs per week as part of a balanced diet. Versus Arthritis also recommends eggs as a good source of protein.

Can osteoarthritis be controlled by diet?

Diet can help manage inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. It can also help a person maintain a moderate weight, which in turn can help reduce stress on the joints. However, a doctor may also recommend medical treatments and other lifestyle modifications.

What foods flare up arthritis pain?

It is a good idea to avoid highly processed food, sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates.

What drink is good for arthritis?

Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant that may reduce inflammation and slow cartilage damage.

What is the best diet to reduce inflammation?

Foods high in antioxidants can help fight inflammation. These include fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish.

There is evidence that certain foods and nutrients can improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. They do this by fighting inflammation, providing nutrition, and boosting bone, muscle, and immune system function.

A person with osteoarthritis may also benefit from following the Mediterranean diet. It is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, yogurt, and healthful fats.

People may also benefit from avoiding or restricting foods that contribute to inflammation.

Maintaining a moderate weight can help reduce extra pressure on the joints, which can help with managing pain.

It is best to contact a doctor for advice before making any significant changes to a person’s diet or overall treatment plan.

Read this article in Spanish.