What are the dietary recommendations for someone with osteoarthritis?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

People with osteoarthritis should eat a healthy, low-fat diet. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and physical activity can help slow the progression of osteoarthritis.

A good diet with adequate sources of the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E might help protect joint cartilage.

Foods can't cause osteoarthritis, but a poor diet can make the condition worse. A high-fat diet can cause weight gain and obesity, which trigger inflammation in the body, and can lead to joint damage and osteoarthritis. Fat also causes inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation of the joints is a leading cause of the debilitating pain that stems from osteoarthritis.

More research needs to be done to determine how dietary practices are related to osteoarthritis.

Although diet can't cure osteoarthritis, certain foods can help relieve pain, cool inflammation and boost bone and muscle strength. Nutrition can also play a big part in helping your body heal itself. A balanced diet is the right place to start. Make sure it includes a heaping helping of antioxidants and a solid dose of essential fatty acids, too.

Antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C, D and E may slow disease progression of osteoarthritis. (Beta carotene may boost your cancer-fighting defenses, too.) Also, anthocyanins—flavonoids found in red cherries—may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Essential fatty acids appear to help quiet inflammatory processes, and omega-3 fatty acids may be particularly helpful for joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. These fats are found in flaxseeds, walnuts, olive oil and oily fish, such as salmon.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

You don't have to eat special foods if you have osteoarthritis. You simply shouldn't eat too much, period. A bad diet that makes you overweight or obese puts you at much greater risk of getting osteoarthritis (OA). An obese woman has four times the risk of knee OA than a non-obese woman. If you already have OA, losing weight through a healthy diet can help you manage the symptoms and keep your joint pain from getting worse. It could even keep you from needing joint replacement surgery. In addition, some research suggests that fat cells themselves are also culprits: They produce inflammatory chemicals that may damage joints.

Aside from the general advice to eat a healthy diet, there aren't any specific nutritional guidelines for OA. I recommend a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and nuts as a way to get plenty of vitamins (especially vitamin D), minerals (especially selenium), good fats (especially omega-3 fatty acid) and antioxidants.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Adults who are overweight or obese have more osteoarthritis than people who are not. Some research suggests that 66 percent of adults who have been diagnosed with arthritis are overweight or obese, compared to 53 percent of adults who do not have arthritis. The good news is that losing as little as 11 pounds of weight can significantly reduce the risk of arthritis, so a healthy diet is recommended.

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

A poor diet could lead to obesity, and obesity increases the risk of osteoarthritis. Also, not having a good diet may mean you are not getting enough of the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, which are needed to help protect joint cartilage. More research needs to be done to determine how dietary practices are related to osteoarthritis.

The most useful dietary intervention for osteoarthritis is to lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight or obese increases the stress on your weight-bearing joints, such as your knees and your hips. Even a small amount of weight loss can take off some pressure and reduce your pain. Like any weight loss program, don’t try to take it off too fast. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week, until you reach your goal weight. Even before, you may notice improvements in your joint pain. Talk to your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian about healthy ways to lose weight.

Some physicians suggest that their patients with osteoarthritis try a supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin to reduce joint pain and improve function for people with osteoporosis. Once patients try a supplement for a period of several weeks to a couple of months, if they don’t feel any relief in that time, doctors recommend discontinuing use. Supplements should not be taken without close medical supervision due to potential side effects and interactions with medicines, so anyone trying these or any other over-the-counter supplements should consult their physician first.

Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

Perhaps the most important dietary recommendation for individuals suffering from osteoarthritis (OA) is that they achieve normal body weight. Being overweight means increasing the stress on weight-bearing joints affected with OA. Beyond that, it is critical that the diet be rich in fruits and vegetables because their natural plant compounds can protect against cellular damage, including damage to the joints. Foods especially beneficial for OA are flavonoid-rich blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Also important are sulfur-containing foods, such as garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. of arthritis sufferers is lower than that of healthy subjects without arthritis.

Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis experience reduction in their pain levels and improvement in their mobility when the sulfur content in fingernails hey consume ginger regularly. Although most scientific studies have used powdered ginger root, fresh ginger root at an equivalent dosage is believed to yield even better results because it contains active enzymes. Most studies utilized 1 gram of powdered ginger root. This would be equivalent to approximately 10 grams or 1/3 ounce of fresh ginger root, roughly a 1/4-inch slice.

People with OA may want to avoid foods from the nightshade family. It appears that in genetically susceptible individuals, long-term, low-level consumption of the alkaloids found in tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tobacco can worsen OA. Presumably these alkaloids inhibit normal collagen repair in the joints or promote the inflammatory degeneration of the joint. Although remaining to be proved, elimination of nightshade vegetables from the diet may offer some benefit to certain individuals and is certainly worth a try.

Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

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Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

From the bestselling authors of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, the most comprehensive and practical guide available to the nutritional benefits and medicinal properties of virtually everything...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.