3 Worst Foods for Joint Pain (and What to Eat Instead)

3 Worst Foods for Joint Pain (and What to Eat Instead)

Medication and physical conditioning are common ways to reduce joint pain. Now there’s growing evidence that “diet” should be added to that list.

Scientists are noticing a strong link between nutrition and pain. In particular, certain foods can lead to inflammation, a key cause of pain in many joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Here are three food types that can cause knee, elbow, and other joint pain—and the tasty alternatives you should eat instead.


A 22-oz. Coke has about 9 teaspoons of sugar—which is the amount in a grande Starbucks latte, two Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and a Fruit Roll-up ... combined.

Processed sugars set off inflammation, which in turn causes pain. Sugary drinks are the main source of added sugar in the American diet.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. But if you’re like the average American, you consume about three times that amount, probably without even realizing it.

What to avoid: Soft drinks, candy, cookies, and donuts are the obvious culprits.foods to avoid

But hidden sugars lurk in all sorts of processed foods, such as yogurt, nutritional bars, and tomato sauce.

  • Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt: 27g or 5.4 teaspoons of sugar
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter PowerBar: 23g or 4.6 teaspoons of sugar
  • Ragu Three Cheese Pasta Sauce (1 cup): 22g or 4.4 teaspoons of sugar

What to eat instead: If your sweet tooth is making it hard to cut back on sugar, try a natural sweet treat: berries. Fruits in general are good at fighting inflammation, but berries contain anthocyanins, potent anti-inflammatory chemicals.

Saturated Fats

Eating foods high in saturated fats increases the level of cholesterol in your blood, putting you at risk of heart disease and stroke. But research shows it also stimulates adipose (fat tissue) tissue inflammation, which can make arthritis inflammation worse.

What to avoid: Some of most popular American food is to blame. Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats in the average American diet, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

  • Other foods that contribute to our saturated fat intake include:
  • Grain-based desserts (donuts, cookies, pastries)
  • Dairy desserts (ice cream, milkshakes)
  • Chicken and chicken mixed dishes
  • Sausage, franks, bacon, and ribs
  • Burgers

What to eat instead: Make your favorite dishes healthier by swapping in lower fat foods. For example:

  • Instead of an egg, use two egg whites
  • Instead of whole milk, use reduced-fat or fat-free milk
  • Instead of butter, use olive oil

Remember that all fats are not created equal. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats—found in salmon, avocados, and walnuts—actually lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Fried Foodsworst foods for joint pain

The food vendors at your local fair may be your worst enemies. From onion rings to deep-fried Snickers, they’re serving a known cause of inflammation: fried food.

Cooking food at high temperatures produces advanced glycation end products (AGEs), toxins that cause inflammation. AGEs are also linked to Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

According to a Mount Sinai School of Medicine study, people who reduce the amount of processed and fried foods in their diet enjoy reduced inflammation, “regardless of age or health status.”

What to avoid: Limit or avoid processed foods as well as grilled, broiled, fried, and microwaved meats. Avoid anything deep-fried, such as:

  • French fries
  • Onion rings
  • Potato chips

What to eat instead: The key is in the preparation. Whenever possible, reduce the cooking temperature of meats and proteins. Poach, stew, or steam your food, or use liquid (for example, by braising). And as already noted, avoid processed foods, which have more AGEs than home-prepared versions.

Take Your Joint Pain Seriously

While diet is an easy way to reduce inflammation and improve joint health, it’s no substitute for the advice of a medical professional.

Our physicians specialize in non-surgical treatments for joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, injuries, aging, and other conditions.

Contact Flexogenix for a free consultation and we’ll discuss the joint treatments that are right for you.

Qualify for a

† While we are in network for most major insurance carriers we have some treatment programs that are not recognized or covered by many insurance carriers.