Arthritis is not a single disease; it refers to a chronic inflammation of the joint that causes pain and stiffness. Of the more than 100 forms of arthritis it’s estimated that more than 22% of American adults (over 52.5 million) suffer from some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition. The amount of inflammation varies and is affected by several factors including diet, alcohol intake, hydration, lifestyle factors, and activity level.
Diets high in saturated fat, refined sugar, and salt have been associated with increased inflammation which can affect arthritic symptoms. We’re going to discuss which foods to avoid when you have arthritis, to build a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.
1. Saturated Fats
One of the ways to control inflammation in your body is to be cognizant of what types of fats you eat. Fatty acids are extremely important to overall health, aiding in blood pressure, blood clotting and other key bodily functions. Saturated fats however are often found in red meat and other animal products and can contribute to high levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. Saturated fats are also found in the animal products such as dairy, ice cream, cheese, and butter. Minimizing foods high in saturated fats, will help reduce inflammation and other chronic disease states.
2. Trans Fats
The worst type of fat not only for arthritis but overall health are trans fats. Trans fats are created when liquid oils are made into solids through a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are found in vast amounts in fast foods, such as fried chicken, French fries, donuts, pies, and packaged processed foods such as crackers, cookies, cake, pastries, and biscuits. In 2015, the FDA ruled that artificial trans fats were unsafe to eat and gave food makers three years until 2018 to eliminate them from the food supply. Though the FDAs ban went into effect, products manufactured before June 18, 2018, can still be distributed. Foods that may still have trans fats include vegetable shortening, margarines, and vegetable oil, baked products, and fried foods.
3. Refined Sugars
Hidden and refined sugars also known as “empty calories” are often found in packaged goods, deserts, crackers, cereals, and condiments. Added sugars can increase inflammation and contribute to chronic disease states, such as heart disease, and diabetes. Be sure to look at the “other ingredients” when purchasing a packaged or processed food. Be mindful of the “added sugars” as well.
4. Dairy And Cheese
Dairy is a difficult category considering that many foods such as yogurt, cheese, and ice cream are all derived from milk. Dairy products made from 100% dairy such as whole milk, cheese or products high in fat and sugar such as ice cream can be pro-inflammatory. However, foods such as Greek yogurt, and kefir are low in fat and high in protein and contain gut enhancing probiotics which can decrease inflammation, support weight loss, and improve arthritic symptoms.
Gluten is a large water-soluble protein, that creates elasticity in dough, also known as lectin. Gluten is found in most common grains such as wheat, barely, and rye and some other types of legumes. Gluten can cause inflammatory response in the gut, and cause symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea and GI issues.
Research shows that gut derived antigens are key contributors and drivers in arthritis. A gluten free diet has been associated with some benefits in patient with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and inflammation [R].
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Alcohol consumption may increase the severity of arthritic symptoms. While moderate drinking of some types of alcohol such as red wine, may reduce the risk of arthritis, if you already have arthritis drinking may increase other disease risk factors. Alcohol may also interact with medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) prescribed for joint pain and inflammation.
Research suggests that foods with higher sodium can increase the severity of arthritic symptoms and inflammation. A study published in the journal Medicine examined a cohort of 18,555 individuals and revealed that total sodium intake was significantly correlated with those that had rheumatoid arthritis [R].
8. Fried Foods
Fried foods especially those from fast food restaurants, typically contain higher amounts of saturated fat from vegetable oils, sodium, and inflammatory ingredients associated with an increase in arthritic symptoms [R]. Fried foods prepared at home with healthy fats such as olive oil, made in the air fryer, or baked is a good alternative to reduce inflammation.
9. Canned Foods
Many canned foods use salt as a preservative, such as canned meat, vegetables, and soup. Canned fruit can also be very high in added and hidden sugars which can increase inflammation. Look for fruit that has been canned in water, or fruit juice with no added sugar. Additionally foods labeled low sodium or not salt added will also be a better alternative to minimize sodium intake.
Foods To Avoid When You Have Arthritis: Takeaway
Arthritis can be extremely debilitating, painful, and hinder your quality of life. By eliminating inflammatory foods that trigger arthritis, you will inevitably reduce inflammation in your body and reduce the severity of your symptoms. Eating high quality lean proteins, such as chicken, white fish, healthy fats rich in omega-3s like avocados and walnuts, and complex carbohydrates, you'll be able to reduce systemic inflammation and improve your overall health and wellness.
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