Inflammation is one of the hallmarks of arthritis, and what you eat may play a role. From fats to fish and veggies to bread, certain foods can lessen the swelling (and stiffness) of arthritis—and other can make it worse. Do you know which foods are which?
True or false: The omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils, mayonnaise and many types of salad dressing can help reduce inflammation if eaten in large quantities.
False. Your body needs omega-6 fatty acids for normal growth and development, but eating too many can trigger the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals that can make the disease worse. So go easy on the safflower, corn and soybean oils.
True or false: Processed carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, instant mashed potatoes and French fries can make inflammation worse.
True. These foods go through a refining process that forms high levels of chemicals called advanced glycation end products, which are known to contribute to inflammation. (They're also linked to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.)
True or false: Eating chocolate triggers the release of chemicals called cytokines, which are natural painkillers.
False. Chocolate bars and other sugary snacks do promote the production of cytokines. But they don't lessen pain—they actually increase inflammation. The root culprit is processed sugar, not the chocolate itself. Limit foods that list sugar or any item that ends in ose (like fructose or sucrose) in the ingredients.
True or false: Spinach, broccoli, cherries, tomatoes, beets, bananas, sweet potatoes and oranges are all good additions to an anti-inflammatory diet.
True. Plant-based foods are packed with antioxidants, which can help fight inflammation.
True or false: Fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, contain healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
True. Some experts say people with arthritis should be eating fish 2 to 4 times a week. Other omega-3 rich foods include flaxseeds and canola oil.
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. If you have pain, swelling or stiffness in your joints, talk to a doctor. Other signs and symptoms can help the doctor figure out what kind of arthritis you might have.
Sources: Arthritis Foundation; National Institutes of Health