Don’t Let Achy Joints Sabotage Your Training. Science Says Ditch These Foods and Load Up on These Instead

Is joint pain hindering your training goals? Don’t let achy joints hold you back from reaching your full potential. 

Discover the surprising link between your diet and joint pain, and learn how simple food swaps can reduce inflammation, alleviate discomfort, and get you back in the game. 

This article reveals specific foods and drinks that exacerbate joint pain, while offering delicious alternatives that promote joint health and enhance your athletic performance. It’s time to fuel your body for success and unleash your inner athlete!


Joint pain can significantly impact daily activities. Inflammation in the hands can make tasks like typing or writing difficult. Pain in the back, knees, or feet can make physical exercise painful, even a short walk.

Many people experience joint pain due to arthritis, defined as joint inflammation. Dr. Grace Wright, a rheumatologist in New York City, explained that different types of arthritis have unique causes. One common type is rheumatoid arthritis, affecting an estimated 1.3 million people in the U.S. This chronic inflammatory disorder typically starts with pain in smaller joints like fingers and toes, eventually affecting larger joints like ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders.

“Recognizing early signs of arthritis is crucial for timely intervention and management. These signs may include persistent joint pain, stiffness, tenderness, swelling, and reduced range of motion”, said Dr. Francisco Contreras, director of the Oasis of Hope Medical Institute in Tijuana, Mexico. He noted that early symptoms can also include fatigue, weakness, morning stiffness, and joint noises.

Foods and Drinks That Can Worsen Joint Pain

Ultra-Processed Foods and Drinks

Research shows that ultra-processed foods can worsen joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. These foods are typically high in refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, added sugars, and artificial additives, all of which can trigger inflammation. Dr. Francisco Contreras explained that a diet high in sugar, for example, can worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms because it prompts an inflammatory response. Therefore, eliminating soda, boxed pastries, candy, and other ultra-processed foods may help reduce joint pain.

Cured or Processed Meat

Cured or processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and ham can make rheumatoid arthritis and gout arthritis worse. These meats are high in nitrates, compounds found in meat preservatives that increase arthritis pain. According to Dr. Grace Wright, nitrates, like sugar, can cause an inflammatory response in the body, leading to joint pain. The effects of processed meat are not immediate, but a diet high in these foods can result in joint pain years later. Reducing processed meat may not bring immediate relief, but it can make a difference over time.

Fried Foods

Regular consumption of fried foods, such as french fries, fried chicken, and onion rings, can exacerbate joint pain. Dr. Wright explained that the oils used in frying can trigger inflammation. Trans fats found in fried foods are particularly harmful and can worsen symptoms of gout due to their pro-inflammatory effects. Switching to air-fried alternatives may help alleviate joint pain.

Gluten (Maybe)

It’s a common belief that cutting out gluten can help with joint pain. This is true for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Dr. Wright and Dr. Contreras noted that gluten can cause joint pain for those sensitive to it. For others, cutting out gluten may not make a difference. Dr. Wright suggested trying a gluten-free diet for three months to see if it helps. If no difference is noticed, gluten can be reintroduced.


Alcohol can worsen arthritis caused by inflammation for several reasons. Dr. Sonya Mehta explained that the breakdown of alcohol creates inflammatory compounds, triggering an inflammatory response. Alcohol also reduces the production of anti-inflammatory bacteria in the gut and increases pro-inflammatory bacteria. This imbalance can trigger rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, alcohol can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to toxins that cause inflammation. Dehydration from alcohol consumption decreases synovial fluid production, which cushions the joints.

What To Eat Instead

All three doctors agree that the best diet for people with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, is an anti-inflammatory diet.

Leafy Green Vegetables and Nuts

Foods like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Nuts, including almonds and walnuts, are rich in healthy fats that can help reduce inflammation.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Incorporating these fish into your diet can help alleviate joint pain.


Fruits, particularly berries and oranges, are high in antioxidants. Berries like blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries contain flavonoids that can reduce inflammation and improve overall joint health.

The Mediterranean Diet

Dr. Wright and Dr. Mehta both recommend the Mediterranean diet, which naturally includes anti-inflammatory foods. This diet emphasizes whole grains, vegetables, fish, and other unprocessed foods while minimizing meat and processed foods. Research supports the connection between the Mediterranean diet and improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. This eating plan can work universally for people with joint pain.

Overall Health Benefits

Dr. Mehta emphasized that an anti-inflammatory diet is not just good for managing joint pain; it’s beneficial for overall health. It can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancer. An anti-inflammatory diet is a good idea for anyone, not just patients with inflammatory arthritis. Eating this way benefits everyone at the table.

Consult Your Healthcare Provider

While dietary changes can significantly impact joint health, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider for a comprehensive approach to managing joint pain. Your entire body will benefit from a healthier diet, and treating pain may require more than dietary adjustments alone.


您的电子邮箱地址不会被公开。 必填项已用 * 标注