The Best Diet for Arthritis By NHS


Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. While there is no cure for arthritis, one of the most effective ways to manage symptoms is through diet. The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK provides dietary recommendations for people with arthritis that can help reduce inflammation and improve overall health. In this blog post, we’ll explore the arthritis diet recommended by the NHS, including which foods to emphasize and limit.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is an umbrella term for over 100 types of joint conditions. The two most common forms are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage between joints breaks down over time, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the joints, leading to inflammation and damage. While the causes differ, both result in debilitating joint symptoms that worsen over time. Along with medication, lifestyle measures like diet and exercise can help manage arthritis symptoms.

How Diet Impacts Arthritis

Research shows that diet can play a significant role in arthritis symptoms. Certain foods may help reduce inflammation, while others may promote inflammation and joint damage. The goals of an arthritis diet are to:

  1. Reduce inflammation
  2. Maintain a healthy weight to avoid excess stress on joints
  3. Obtain essential nutrients that support joint health

The NHS recommends focusing on specific foods and nutrients to achieve these goals. Let’s look at their dietary advice for managing arthritis.

NHS Dietary Recommendations for Arthritis

Fill up on Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The NHS recommends emphasizing foods with anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce arthritis symptoms. Key anti-inflammatory foods to include are:

  • Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce cytokine inflammation messengers. Aim for at least two servings per week.
  • Nuts like walnuts and almonds contain alpha-linolenic acid, an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fat.
  • Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants and polyphenols like cherries, blueberries, spinach, kale, peas, and broccoli have anti-inflammatory benefits. Get 5 servings per day.
  • Olive oil contains oleocanthal that blocks inflammatory pathways. Use for cooking and dressing dishes.
  • Spices like ginger, turmeric, garlic, and chili peppers contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Add to recipes daily.
  • Green and black teas have antioxidant polyphenols that reduce inflammation. Aim for 2-3 cups per day.

Limit Pro-Inflammatory Foods

Certain foods may promote inflammation and worsen arthritis pain and damage. Limiting these foods can provide relief. Foods to reduce include:

  • Saturated fats found in red meat, butter, and full-fat dairy. These fats trigger inflammatory messengers.
  • Refined carbs like white bread, pastries, chips, and crackers. These quickly spike blood sugar and inflammation.
  • Fried foods and trans fats found in margarine, fried foods, and processed snacks. They contain pro-inflammatory advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs).
  • Alcohol, particularly in excess, raises cytokines and causes inflammation. Limit to 1-2 standard drinks per day maximum.
  • Processed and sugary foods which raise inflammation and potentially contribute to arthritis development and progression.

Focus on Weight Management

Being overweight or obese stresses the joints, worsens arthritis pain, and increases inflammatory markers. Losing excess body fat reduces arthritis symptoms and improves function. The NHS recommends focusing on gradual, sustainable weight loss through portion control, cutting back on calories from sugary and processed foods, and increasing activity as able. Even a 5-10% loss of body weight can provide arthritis relief. Speak to your doctor about safe weight loss strategies.

Emphasize Joint-Healthy Nutrients

Make sure your diet provides key nutrients that support joint health and manage arthritis symptoms:

  • Protein – Adequate protein intake preserves muscle mass and strength as arthritis progresses. Aim for 0.8-1 gram of protein per kg of body weight. Get protein from lean meats, fish, eggs, plant sources like beans and legumes, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Calcium – Low calcium intake is linked with greater cartilage loss in osteoarthritis. Include low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, leafy greens, almonds, and calcium-fortified plant milks.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D aids calcium absorption and bone health. Get your levels checked and supplement as needed, along with fatty fish, eggs, fortified foods, and sunlight exposure.
  • Iron – Iron supports growth and repair processes in joints. Include lean meats, spinach, lentils, and iron-fortified cereals.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium helps lower inflammatory markers and arthritis pain. Consume nuts, seeds, leafy greens, beans, yogurt, and cocoa.
  • Zinc – Zinc deficiency is common in rheumatoid arthritis. Eat oysters, meat, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, and eggs.


The arthritis diet by the NHS focuses on controlling inflammation, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting essential nutrients. Key strategies include emphasizing foods with anti-inflammatory benefits like oily fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and tea. Pro-inflammatory foods like saturated fats, refined carbs, fried foods, excess alcohol and sugar should be limited. Getting adequate protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and zinc also helps manage arthritis. Consulting a doctor or dietitian can help create a personalized arthritis diet plan. With the right dietary changes, people with arthritis can improve their symptoms, mobility, and quality of life.

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