Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for preventing or managing arthritis. It is common for people to wonder if there is a specific diet that should be followed or foods to avoid with arthritis.
The good news is that when it comes to arthritis, the dietary advice is quite simple: the best diet for arthritis is a healthy, balanced one to maintain your general health and prevent other medical problems.
So, what does a healthy, balanced diet look like?
Learn more about the Australian Dietary Guidelines and some balanced eating patterns below.
Australian Dietary Guidelines
The Australian Dietary Guidelines give advice on eating for health and wellbeing. They tell us about the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns needed for health and wellbeing, and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
The guidelines include 5 principal recommendations for healthy eating.
- To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious foods and drinks to meet your energy needs.
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five key food groups.
- Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
- Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.
- Care for your food; prepare and store it safely.
In the below links, learn more about the types and amounts of foods recommended as part of a healthy diet:
- Australian Guide to Healthy Eating – visual food selection guide
- The Five Food Groups
- Average recommended number of serves calculator
Mediterranean Diet / Anti-inflammatory diet
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most researched types of diets. It has shown to reduce our risk of a range of chronic health conditions (like dementia, heart disease, and some cancers), and may also help in managing some mental health conditions.
Like the dietary guidelines, a Mediterranean-style diet includes a range of foods from the different food groups. This includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. It also includes fish and wholegrains, and moderate amounts of lean red meats and dairy.
No diet has been proven to cure arthritis. But, research suggests a Mediterranean style diet might help in the management of arthritis symptoms. This type of diet is high in anti-inflammatory foods which may help to reduce inflammation in the body. In the following links, learn more about how the Mediterranean diet (or a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods) might help arthritis:
- Mediterranean Diet for Osteoarthritis, by Arthritis Foundation
- Anti-inflammatory Diet, by Creaky Joints Australia
A Mediterranean-style diet is just one way of eating a healthy balanced diet, but it might not be right for everyone.
Plant-based diets focus on foods from plant sources and generally include a wide range of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, legumes and meat alternatives like soy-based foods.
- Learn more about different types of vegetarian diets: Vegetarian diets – the basics, Dietitians Australia.
There is mixed evidence about the effects of vegetarian diets on arthritis. Vegetarian or plant-based diets tend to increase your intake of vitamins as you eat more vegetables and fruits. Lower levels of fat in this diet may also help you to lose weight. These factors may help with arthritis symptoms.
However, a strict vegetarian diet may mean you miss out on other important nutrients, such as iron and vitamin B12. You may consider seeing a Dietitian who can help make sure you are eating the right foods in the right amounts to meet your nutrient requirements.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a diet designed to reduce harmful blood pressure levels. There is a small amount of evidence suggesting a DASH diet may lower inflammation.
People consuming the DASH diet had reduced levels of C-reactive protein in their blood. This protein is an important marker of inflammation.
The DASH diet recommends consuming a variety of foods from all food groups. This includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, nuts, and seeds. It also includes minimal servings of fish, lean meats, and fats.
Are There Foods to Avoid With Arthritis?
There is very little proof that specific foods have an effect on arthritis and some foods are worse for arthritis than others (the exception to this is gout).
Arthritis symptoms usually vary day to day. This makes it hard to know if a change in symptoms is because of a particular change in food or just coincidence.
Some studies suggest reducing intakes of processed meats, saturated fats, and sugar, is associated with lower disease activity and damage in certain types of arthritis.
Some people with arthritis report improvements after avoiding certain foods. However this is usually due to individual food intolerances. If you feel that certain foods are causing problems, talk to a dietitian or your doctor. They may suggest you be tested for food intolerances. Do not cut whole food groups from your diet without talking to your doctor as you may miss out on important vitamins and minerals.
What About Diets For Specific Types of Arthritis?
Unfortunately there is not enough evidence to suggest diets for specific types of arthritis. We get many questions regarding if there is a specific anti-inflammatory diet that can help with arthritis. Or if there is a Rheumatoid Arthritis diet, or an Osteoarthritis diet.
There are certain foods and food groups that may help reduce inflammation in the body and are protective against ill health. But specifically, there are no proven diets for any type of arthritis.
Some foods, or components of the foods we eat, that may be beneficial for reducing inflammation include:
Omega-3 fatty acids – found in:
- Fish and other seafood – especially salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines.
- Nuts and seeds – flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
- Plant oils – flaxseed oil, soybean oil and canola oil.
- Omega-3 supplements like fish oil or krill oil – talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements.
Fruits and vegetables –
- A wide variety and range of fruits and vegetables are crucial in your diet. You can use this Australian Guide to Healthy Eating tool to see a variety of fruits and vegetables to include in your day.
- Making sure to consume your recommended 5-6 servings of vegetables per day, and 2 servings of fruits.
- You can use this Australian Guide to Healthy Eating tool to see a variety of wholegrain foods to include in your day.
- Aim to consume the recommended 4-6 servings of wholegrains per day.
More Information and Support
- If you’re looking for help with healthy eating or improving your diet, consider seeing a dietitian who can provide advice tailored to your individual needs. To find a dietitian, visit https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/find-an-apd/ or ask your GP for a referral.
- Downloadable Information sheets: Healthy eating and arthritis, Gout and Diet
- Connect with others living with arthritis through our online communities.
- About the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Eat for Health
- Healthy Eating and Arthritis. (2017). Arthritis Australia
- Alunno A, Carubbi F, Bartoloni E, Grassi D, Ferri C, Gerli R. Diet in Rheumatoid Arthritis versus Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Any Differences? Nutrients 2021, 13, 772. https:// doi.org/10.3390/nu13030772