Variety of healthy foods like fish, nuts, seeds, fruit, and vegetables.

5 best and worst foods for joint pain.

Advice by Dr. Cynthia E. Collins

Cynthia E. Collins, MD

MDLIVE Medical Director Cynthia E. Collins, MD, is board certified and specializes in family medicine, weight loss, and health and wellness. A member of the American Academy of Family Medicine and Obesity Medicine Association, Dr. Collins is knowledgeable in holistic medical care for all ages.

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When you’re dealing with joint pain, reaching for the medicine cabinet can become the norm for fast relief. But what if you could prevent the pain from happening in the first place just by adjusting your diet?

Joint pain stems from inflammation, and experts say what you eat is the key to controlling your inflammation levels.1 By limiting fried and highly processed foods and incorporating more anti-inflammatory whole foods, you can reduce your joint pain.

  • 1

“An anti-inflammatory diet is essential to preventing joint pain, and increasing your water intake is also key. Water is a natural lubricant for the joints, reduces inflammation, and can improve joint health.”

– Dr. Collins

So, if joint pain makes your daily activities harder, start with your diet. Here are Dr. Collins’ recommendations on which foods to avoid and healing, anti-inflammatory foods to add to your grocery list.

5 inflammatory foods to avoid

Refined grains

1. Refined grains

White bread, white rice, pasta, and breakfast cereals quickly break down into sugar, leading to higher inflammation. Try whole grain options like whole wheat, whole oats, and brown rice instead.

French fries and other fried foods

2. French fries and other fried foods

Frying—even grilling—foods in high heat can bump up their trans fat content and impact your gut health promoting inflammation.2 Choose baked, steamed, or simmered options.

Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

3. Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

High amounts of sugar in your diet increase inflammation and negatively impacts overall health. A few cans per day can add up quickly. Opt for less sweet or unsweetened options and look for natural sweeteners vs. artificial.

Red processed meat

4. Red and processed meat

Burgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, and lunch meats are high in saturated fat and nitrates, contributing to inflammation. Limit these meats to 3 times per week, and choose more lean options like fish, chicken, turkey, or tofu.

Snack foods

5. Snack foods

Chips, cookies, crackers, and pastries are all highly processed and promote inflammation from added sugars and processed oils. Instead, pick dark chocolate, roasted chickpeas, or yogurt with granola and berries to satisfy your snack cravings.

Sip wisely

Wine glass in hand

Excessive alcohol can promote inflammation in the body and lead to leaky gut.2 It packs an even bigger punch when combined with sugary, highly processed, or fried foods. Limit yourself to 1 drink per day for women or 2 for men.

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5 foods that help heal your joints

Olive oil

1. Olive oil

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, reducing inflammation and making it ideal for cooking or salad dressing.

Green leafy vegetables

2. Green leafy vegetables

Throw some spinach, kale, collards, or other leafy greens in your salad to get a hefty dose of vitamins A, C, and K to help fight inflammation.3

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3. Nuts

Almonds and walnuts are rich in healthy fats and antioxidants. Eat a handful of almonds with an apple as a snack, or add walnuts to a stir-fry for a nutty flavor.

Cold water, fatty fish

4. Cold water, fatty fish

Reduce inflammation with omega-3-rich fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Have a fish dish at least twice per week for the inflammation-fighting benefits.


5. Fruit

Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges are rich in antioxidants that give them their bright colors and help reduce inflammation. Eating a variety of berries is also linked to lower risks of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.4

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Did you know?

Joint pain is linked to hypothyroidism,5 which is aggravated by inflammation. So, if your joints are stiff and achy, you could have an underlying thyroid issue.

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When you’re sick and need care fast, MDLIVE is a reliable and affordable alternative to urgent care clinics for more than 80 common medical conditions, including:

  • Back & Joint Pain
  • Cold & Flu
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Knee Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Prescriptions6
  • And more
  • 6Prescriptions are available at the physician’s discretion when medically necessary.
  • 7 If you have a medical or mental health emergency, call 911. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience a life-threatening condition or acute or severe symptoms.

Posted date: September 12, 2023

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