The Worst Foods For Arthritis

Arthritis seems like one of those things that's bound to get you, sooner or later... hopefully later. We mostly think about it as being one of those unavoidable problems that comes with aging, but according to Health, arthritis — which isn't a single disease, but can be one of over 100 different kinds of joint inflammation — can strike people in their 20s and 30s as well as their parents and grandparents.

While arthritis isn't something that can really be cured, it is very manageable, and responds well to lifestyle changes including exercise and, of course, a healthy diet. Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, the nutritionist with Daily Harvest, says that when it comes to treating arthritis, the secret lies in "keep[ing] inflammation at bay. The less inflamed the joints, the less pain you will be in." Okau, great, but how do you avoid inflammation? The best way to do so is by noshing on hero anti-inflammatories like fruits, veggies, and nuts while avoiding those evil villain foods most likely to trigger the condition.

Stay away away from snack crackers and pretzels when you have arthritis

As MIND Diet author Maggie Moon, MS, RD warns, "There are many studies linking a sub-optimal microbiome to inflammatory arthritis. Refined grain foods such as pretzels are exactly what a healthy microbiome doesn't crave," (via Eat This, Not That!). The Arthritis Health blog concurs, explaining that refined carbohydrates cause blood glucose to spike, which in turn increases inflammation in the body.

What's more, these packaged snacks are likely to contain partially hydrogenated oils as preservatives, and these trans fats are also known inflammation triggers. Lisa DeFazio, MS, RD also notes that the high sodium levels of such snacks could be a problem: "Salt may result in inflammation of joints... limit your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day."

If you have arthritis, make sure there's no margarine in your diet

While margarine was once thought to be an acceptable substitute for butter, those days are long gone. It is still quite a bit cheaper than the real dairy deal, but while margarine may be budget-friendly, it's no friend to arthritis sufferers. Margarine, after all, is made by hydrogenating vegetable oils, a process which changes them into trans fats. Not only have trans fats been linked to heart disease and cancer, but they are also a cause of inflammation in the body. Even if you'd never dream of spreading margarine on your bread, it may well be an ingredient in the packaged cakes, cookies, and other baked goods you may be eating, so you might have to do some more careful label reading — and shopping — in order to make sure you're eating trans fat-free.

Skip sodas and other sugary drinks if you suffer from arthritis

Soda, in particular, is a huge source of sugar in many people's daily diets — a single can of Sunkist orange soda, for example, has about 10 teaspoons' worth of sugar, which not only exceeds the recommended daily amount of sugar for men (9 teaspoons) but is nearly double that recommended for women (6 teaspoons). Nutritionist Moon points out that, according to a study with which she's familiar, "Just one sugary soda a day increased the risk for rheumatoid arthritis by 63 percent. This was compared to people who never drank soda and those who had it less than once a month."

Think switching out soda for juice is going to help? Not so fast. Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, who authored Pain Free 1-2-3, offers this caveat: "One of the key drivers for inflammation [is] fruit juice that's high in sugar," (via Eat This, Not That!).

Still, if you enjoy something bubbly and refreshing, or you enjoy a hint of fruit flavor, no need to despair. Luckily, we are living in the golden age of flavored seltzers such as La Croix, and Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. says there's not much harm in making these drinks your new obsession.