A woman with RA crosses her hands and places them on her knee. She is wearing a light blue blouse and navy blue dress. Her face cannot be seen.

Foods to Avoid if You’ve Been Diagnosed With Rheumatoid Arthritis

While there is no definitive cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are steps you can take to alleviate its symptoms. Depending on your dietary choices, it is possible to curb inflammation and symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, the opposite is also true; consuming certain foods can worsen symptoms and arthritis.

Improving your diet can lead to reduced pain. For example, increased fat tissue gained from unhealthy food will place more strain on your joints as well as inhibit muscle strength. As a result, the extra weight will bring more pain to an individual’s ankles and hips than is necessary. Let’s review some foods to avoid if you suffer from RA.

Foods Classified as Red Meat

Individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis should lower their intake of red meats. This includes meat that is red when raw, like beef, but any food containing high levels of myoglobin proteins like pork is considered red meat. Red meats harbor many omega 6 fatty acids and saturated fats, which further aggravate inflammation in fat tissue, and the latter of which can contribute to obesity.

Instead of eating red meats, lean meats are healthier food choices for RA. Not only do they do the opposite of red meats and reduce inflammation, but they can improve the condition of tender and swollen joints. Lean meats include foods like white-fleshed fish, which serve as a more RA-friendly alternative to red meats because of their omega-3 fatty acids, which “act as precursors to lipid mediators of inflammation and may attenuate and modulate the autoimmune inflammatory response.” (1)

Fried Foods

Red meats aren’t the only form of meat those with Rheumatoid Arthritis should watch out for, as fried meat and other fried foods can be detrimental for several reasons. No matter what oil was used in the frying process, fried foods have higher trans fat than other meals. Trans fat is made when hydrogen is added to oils to increase their longevity and shelf life but is another cause of increased inflammation. 

Additionally, fried foods release a toxin known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, that increase oxidation in the cells of the body. As an alternative to frying foods, meals made with air fryers are a better food choice for those with RA.

Sugary Foods

Having a pastry for breakfast once in a while is a great treat, but eating them too frequently will make them a bad food choice for those with RA. That’s because pastries are considered an inflammatory food due to their higher levels of sugar. As the level of blood sugar increases, the body produces chemicals called cytokines when they digest the sugar molecules. 

Meals containing cytokines are considered inflammatory foods by many, as studies have shown that “cytokines are involved in the development of inflammatory and neuropathic pain”, meaning that individuals who consume too much sugar are more susceptible to inflammations. (2)

Salty Foods

Some kinds of food are detrimental to those with Rheumatoid Arthritis in other ways. For example, salty foods, like meals prepared in a restaurant or packaged snacks that were processed, are bad for blood pressure. High blood pressure is already a significant problem for a large portion of the population, and it has a detrimental impact on the RA community as well.

The steroids individuals may take for Rheumatoid Arthritis will cause their bodies to retain more salt than they normally would, resulting in increased levels of salt in their systems.

Alcoholic Beverages

Although whether or not alcohol has a direct influence on Rheumatoid Arthritis is debated, its consumption can potentially harm individuals with RA if certain circumstances are met. Medications commonly prescribed for Rheumatoid Arthritis, including ibuprofen, leflunomide, methotrexate, and more, are not compatible with alcoholic beverages. Should they interact, it may result in liver damage or other harmful conditions.

If you seek a rheumatoid arthritis specialist to assist your condition, reach out to Arthritis, Rheumatic, & Bone Disease Associates today. Our doctors specializing in RA, PMR, osteoporosis and other complex medical needs will work diligently to address your health circumstances so you can lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.


Kostoglou-Athanassiou, Ifigenia et al. “The Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Mediterranean journal of rheumatology vol. 31,2 190-194. 30 Jun. 2020, doi:10.31138/mjr.31.2.190


Zhang, Jun-Ming, and Jianxiong An. “Cytokines, inflammation, and pain.” International anesthesiology clinics vol. 45,2 (2007): 27-37. doi:10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e

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