5 steps to the perfect diet for osteoarthritis

Those living with osteoarthritis know how important a healthy lifestyle is for the management of their condition. Yes, watching your waistline is important but could the food you eat help to manage your symptoms too?

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting nearly 9 million people in the UK. It is a long-term condition that has no cure however, it is well known that maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise are great for managing symptoms. On top of these measures, people with arthritis need to keep an eye on the types of food they eat.

The musculoskeletal condition happens when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. According to Arthritis Foundation, foods that fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system can help to ease these symptoms. 

Healthy foods that help osteoarthritis symptoms also help to manage body weight. This is particularly important for people with arthritis as carrying excess weight puts extra pressure on joints and hinders mobility. 

Follow these 5 simple steps to start your journey towards a osteoarthritis-friendly diet:

Step 1: Add marine life to your meals

Fish can help to reduce the inflammation caused by arthritis. Salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are great sources of marine fatty acids. Omega-3s interfere with immune cells called leukocytes and enzymes known as cytokines, which are both key players in the body’s inflammatory response. 

If you have cut out fish, you can get your omega-3 from flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soy.

Step 2: Choose red fruits

Fruits like cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are all high in anthocyanins. As well as giving red, purple and blue plants their rich colouring, anthocyanins have an antioxidant effect. Numerous studies also show that these compounds work to reduce inflammation. 

Step 3: Don't ditch dairy

Although many people say that cutting out all dairy products can help arthritis because of their pro-inflammatory properties, keeping some low-fat dairy foods like yoghurt and cheese can actually help. Rich sources of calcium and vitamin D increase bone strength which in turn helps to prevent further joint damage. Dairy is a contentious food group for those tackling their bone health and the debate continues between researchers backing conflicting pro and anti-inflammatory findings. In 2017, researchers from the University of Bologna carried out a hollistic review of 52 varying studys and concluded that: "the consumption of dairy products is associated with anti-inflammatory properties in humans." It's worth noting that this conclusion does not take into account people who are allergic to cows milk! 

Step 4: Bet on brussels 

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale are all high in sulforaphane. Researchers from the University of East Anglia found that this compound can slow, or even prevent the progression of osteoarthritis. It does this by blocking the enzymes that cause joint destruction. These vegetables are also touted as having brilliant anti-inflammatory properties too! 

Step 5: Go for whole grains to reduce your pain

Food like oatmeal, cereals and brown rice lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. This protein is a marker for inflammation that plays a role in the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis, it doesn’t always affect the structural damage caused by the condition. 


Dairy products and inflammation: A review of the clinical evidence - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2014.967385 

Sulforaphane Represses Matrix-Degrading Proteases and Protects Cartilage From Destruction In Vitro and In Vivo - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.38133 

Antioxidant and Antiinflammatory Activities of Anthocyanins and Their Aglycon, Cyanidin, from Tart Cherries - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.38133

If you want to find out more about diet and arthritis, visit Arthritis Action!

If you or someone you know needs support with allergies now, please check out the talkarthritis hub for more articles, support programmes and product reviews! 

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 20 May 2021
Next review: 20 May 2024