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Ten foods that are perfect for an arthritis diet

Jane Murphy / 21 December 2015

Changing your diet can make a big difference to your symptoms and even help prevent the condition from developing. Here's what to add to your diet.

Wicker basket of cherries
Cherries are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

1. Tinned sardines

Eating at least one portion of oily fish each week may halve the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, says a Swedish study published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The main reason? It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Tinned sardines, eaten with the bones, may be particularly beneficial as they're also high in bone-building calcium.

Related: Great sources of omega-3 for people who don’t like fish

2. Brazil nuts

Selenium is a trace element that plays an important role in boosting immunity, and may also slow the progression of arthritis by fighting inflammation.

Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium: snack on three or four each day and you should get all you require.

Related: How selenium benefits your health

Related: 10 reasons to eat more nuts

3. Mushrooms

People with arthritis are often found to be low in vitamin D, which is needed to regulate bone-building calcium. We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight – but along with oily fish and egg yolks, sun-exposed mushrooms are among the best dietary sources.

Mushrooms transform ultraviolet light into the vitamin even after harvesting, so leave them unwrapped in direct sunlight for 30 minutes or so before cooking. Another bonus? They've also been found to have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Related: How Vitamin D affects your health

4. Cherries

Fancy a sweet snack? Cherries are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may also prevent episodes of gout by encouraging the excretion of uric acid.

In fact, eating at least 20 cherries a day can protect people with existing gout from recurrent flare-ups, according to researchers at Boston University Medical Center.

Related: Understanding antioxidants

5. Turmeric

This yellow-coloured spice is believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect, so can help to ease joint pain and boost flexibility.

A 2010 study, published in Alternative Medicine Review, found that taking a turmeric supplement improved long-term pain and mobility in 100 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. As well as adding turmeric to curries, you can sprinkle it on soups and sauces.

Related: How spices can give you a health boost

Related: Ease those painful knees

6. Ginger

Ginger is another spice that appears to fight inflammation. A University of Miami study found that a highly concentrated ginger extract reduced the pain and stiffness of knee osteoarthritis by 40 per cent. Add ginger to stir-fries or try drinking ginger tea.

Related: Find out more about ginger’s health benefits

Related: How inflammation affects your health

7. Broccoli

Sulforaphane, a compound found in particularly high quantities in broccoli, could be key to preventing or slowing the progress of osteoarthritis, according to a study at the University of East Anglia. The researchers believe it works by blocking the enzymes that cause joint damage by halting a key molecule known to cause inflammation.

Related: Boost your health by eating colourful foods

Related: Lifestyle changes that could help your osteoarthritis

8. Kale

Need another reason to eat your greens? Iron-deficiency anaemia is fairly common in people with arthritis, so it's important to ensure you get plenty of iron in your diet. And dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, watercress and spinach, are among the best sources.

Another tip? Iron is absorbed better if you take it with vitamin C, so have a glass of orange juice with your meal.

Related: Learn more about iron and its role in health

Related: Fancy cooking kale? Find delicious recipes ideas

9. Olive oil

Olecanthal, a molecule found in olive oil, has similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen – and can help to alleviate both the chronic and acute inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, according to recent research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Antioxidant-rich olive oil is also key to the Mediterranean-style diet – along with plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and oily fish. People who eat a Mediterranean diet have a significantly lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, compared to those who eat a typical high-fat, sugar-laden Western diet.

Related: Diet and exercise for rheumatoid arthritis

10. Garlic

Never mind the smelly breath! Eat plenty of garlic and you'll lower your risk of developing osteoarthritis, say researchers at King's College London and the University of East Anglia. They found that allium vegetables – a group that also includes leeks and onions – appear to have a protective effect by limiting the amount of cartilage-damaging enzymes.

Related: How garlic helps your health

Related: How diet and exercise can help your osteoarthritis


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.