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Foods to help ease arthritis

Daniel Couglin / 21 June 2016 ( 21 June 2019 )

Eight of the most effective foods proven by science to help control arthritis symptoms.

Broccoli may help protect against osteoarthritis
A compound found in broccoli slows down the destruction of the cartilage joints.

Whether you're affected by osteoarthritis, the most common form of the condition, which is caused by wear and tear of the joint cartilage, or autoimmune inflammatory types such as rheumatoid arthritis, what you eat can make a difference.

Studies show that maintaining a healthy weight and following a Mediterranean-style diet are key, but research has also identified individual foods that help control the symptoms and slow the progression of the condition. These nutritional wonders help strengthen the bones, regulate the immune system and dampen down inflammation. Here are eight of the most effective foods, as backed up by science.

Osteoarthritis: the foods to avoid


Beneficial for: rheumatoid arthritis

Studies show that omega-3 fish oils help reduce inflammation in the body, easing the symptoms of rheumatoid and other autoimmune forms of arthritis. At least two portions of oily fish per week are recommended to reap the benefits, and it's worth taking an omega-3 supplement, too.

Sardines are your best bet. In addition to a high omega-3 content, oily fish that are eaten with the bones are a rich source of calcium. People with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased chance of developing osteoporosis and a diet that is rich in calcium can help lower this risk.

10 reasons to eat more fish


Beneficial for: osteoarthritis

A compound found in broccoli slows down the destruction of the cartilage joints associated with osteoarthritis according to a 2013 study by the University of East Anglia.

Sulforaphane, which is found in smaller amounts in other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and Brussels sprouts, blocks the enzymes that cause the joint damage.

Scientists at pharmaceutical company Evgen Pharma have since developed an osteoarthritis drug treatment based on sulforaphane called Sulforadex, such is its effectiveness.

How to cook broccoli

Delicious broccoli recipes


Beneficial for: rheumatoid arthritis

Evidence suggests that a diet high in antioxidant-packed fruit and vegetables may reduce the inflammation that is characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory types of the condition.

Blackcurrants are an excellent source of antioxidants, but a diet rich in a wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables is the way forward.

Antioxidants also support the immune system, which may be suppressed in people who are taking anti-inflammatory drugs to treat their symptoms.

How antioxidants affect your health

10 ways to boost your immune system

Extra-virgin olive oil

Beneficial for: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis

The cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, extra-virgin olive oil contains a compound called  oleocanthal, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, working in much the same way as common NSAIDs drugs such as ibuprofen, though not as potent.

Evidence also shows that extra-virgin olive oil boosts the production of lubrican, a substance that lubricates and protects the cartilage, so it's useful for people living with osteoarthritis, too.

The health benefits of dietary oils


Beneficial for: osteoarthritis

Research from King's College London and the University of East Anglia indicates that a diet high in allium vegetables, which include garlic, onions, leeks and chives, may help prevent osteoarthritis, delay the onset and even slow down the progression of the condition.

Like broccoli, garlic and other alliums contain a compound that blocks the enzymes that eat away at the cartilage, protecting joints from damage. If you're not a fan of allium veggies or want to keep your breath extra-fresh, an odourless garlic supplement should offer similar benefits.

Learn more about how garlic can benefit your health


Beneficial for: rheumatoid arthritis

Carrots are packed with antioxidant beta-carotene and fibre, which have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation in the body. Both beta-carotene and fibre lower levels of C-reative protein (CRP) in the blood. CRP is one of the tell-tale biomarkers of rheumatoid arthritis, so the lower the level of this protein in the blood, the less severe your symptoms should be. Other foods that are high in both beta-carotene and fibre include sweet potatoes and spinach.

Why you need to eat a rainbow of colourful foods for better health


Beneficial for: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis

This vivid yellow spice is beneficial for all sorts of conditions, including osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Research indicates that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can help ease the pain of knee osteoarthritis, while study after study has shown that the substance helps regulate the body's immune response and dampens down the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. If you can't get hold of fresh root turmeric, the dried powdered stuff should work just as well.

10 healthy reasons to eat more spices

Learn more about the health benefits of turmeric


Beneficial for: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis

A popular folk remedy for arthritis, ginger, at least in its concentrated form, can help relieve the pain of osteoarthritis and reduce inflammation associated with the autoimmune types of the condition. For instance, in one study from 2012, a concentrated ginger extract decreased inflammatory reaction in cells affected by rheumatoid arthritis as effectively as corticosteroids, without the steroid side effects.

What is inflammation?

Discover the health benefits of ginger

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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.