Arthritis Diet – Suggested Foods from The International Academy of Nutrition

Millions of Australians suffer from painful and swollen joints associated with arthritis. While the role that foods play in the condition is still the subject of much controversy, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that some foods are more appropriate than others. For example, we now know that animal fats are converted in the body into inflammation – promoting substances while fish oils have a proven antiinflammatory effect. There is a subgroup of arthritis sufferers that react adversely to wheat, milk, cheese, certain beans and members of the nightshade family including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, capsicum and tobacco. We also know that some foods and herbs have a definite antiinflammatory/ antioxidant effect and should be included in the diet of an arthritis sufferer. These foods include fish, berries, most vegetables and, interestingly, also include various herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger and garlic. While we cannot claim any dietary cure for arthritis we can suggest the foods and beverages which make up a healthy diet.

Different Types of Arthritis

Arthritis is actually a group of different diseases. Osteoarthritis is a gradual loss of cartilage and overgrowth of bone in the joints, especially the knees, hips, spine and fingertips. Many Australians mostly over age 45, suffer from osteoarthritis, which seems to be the result of accumulated wear and tear. Although it can cause painful episodes, it is usually characterized by only transient stiffness and does not cause major interference with the use of the hands. Pain and inflammation does not manifest until the disease is more advanced.

Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects fewer people, is a more aggressive form of the disease. It causes painful, inflamed joints, which sometimes become damaged. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of medicine’s mysteries. There were no medical reports of the disease until the early 1800s. Some have suspected that a virus, bacterium  or even certain food proteins may play a role, perhaps by setting off an autoimmune reaction whereby the body’s own immune system starts to attack the joints. Genetics may also be influence susceptibility to the disease.

The Role of Diet

For years people have suspected that foods are an important factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Many notice an improvement in their condition after about three weeks when they avoid red meat, dairy products, citrus fruits, tomatoes, eggplant, sugar, fats and certain other foods.

Scientific research shows that certain dietary changes do in fact help. For example, when olive oil predominates in the vegetable based diet with plenty of seafood, the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio increases and this produces a beneficial effect.  In addition, researchers have found that vegan diets are beneficial.   When a low fat vegan diet was given to subjects with moderate-to-severe RA after only four weeks, almost all measures of RA symptoms decreased significantly.(McDougall J, Bruce B, Spiller G, Westerdahl J, McDougall M. Effects of a very low-fat, vegan diet in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Feb;8(1):71-5).

Similarly gluten-free diets and raw vegan diets rich in antioxidants and fibre have been shown to improve the signs and symptoms of RA.( Hafstrom I, Ringertz B, Spangberg A, von Zweigbergk L, Brannemark S, Nylander I, Ronnelid J, Laasonen L, Klareskog L. A vegan diet free of gluten improves the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis: the effects on arthritis correlate with a reduction in antibodies to food antigens. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2001 Oct;40(10):1175-9.and Hanninen, Kaartinen K, Rauma AL, Nenonen M, Torronen R, Hakkinen AS, Adlercreutz H, Laakso J. Antioxidants in vegan diet and rheumatic disorders. Toxicology. 2000 Nov 30;155(1-3):45-53.)

Vegan diets dramatically reduce the overall amount of fat in the diet, and alter the composition of fats. This in turn can affect the immune processes that influence arthritis. The omega-3 fatty acids in vegetables may be a key factor, along with the near absence of saturated fat. The fact that patients also lose weight on a vegan diet contributes to the improvement.

In addition, vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals. Oxygen free radicals attack many parts of the body including of the joints, and contribute to heart disease, diabetes and the aging process in general.

As well as being helpful in preventing arthritis, foods rich in antioxidants may also have a role in reducing its symptoms. Some arthritis treatments, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, work at least in part by neutralizing free radicals. For the most part, food based antioxidants such as berries and other brightly coloured fruits and vegetables will be of more use in preventing damage before it occurs or in slowing down the deterioration, rather than in treating an inflamed joint. (Merry P, Grootveld M, Lunec J, Blake DR. Oxidative damage to lipids within the inflamed human joint provides evidence of radical-mediated hypoxic-reperfusion injury. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;53:362S-9S.)

However, please note that there is no specific diet for arthritis patients.  The optimal foods will depend upon the type of arthritis, the seasonal foods available and the genetic predisposition of the person. For this reason many people will respond to a simple well balanced highly nutritious diet without singling out any reactive foods.  The following food suggestions are drawn from fruits, vegetables, mostly non-gluten grains, beans, fish and low fat white meats together with certain antioxidant-rich herbs and spices.

For some arthritis patients, supplements of containing glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin sulphate and also omega-3 fish have been helpful and for that reason are suggested as part of the daily diet plan.


Oats: hot or cold

a) Bircher muesli

1 cup organic rolled oats

1 1/2 cups pure bottled apple juice

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 apple, grated

Possible toppings: natural yogurt, soy yogurt, sliced almonds, walnuts, freshly ground linseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut

Combine oats, juice and berries in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Stir in freshly grated apple and top with choice toppings.

b) Cooked rolled oats as porridge and add the other ingredients to make a hot cereal. Use soya, rice, oat or other suitable milk (A2 milk),

Honey or pure Canadian maple syrup in small quantities as a sweetener.

(2 serves)

Brown Rice

Choice of either cold cooked rice or reheated brown rice.

Flavour with coconut milk, ground almonds and cherries or reheat with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, coconut milk and a teaspoon of palm sugar or raw honey


Saute sliced fresh mushrooms in a little olive oil until just cooked, adding some fresh herbs like parsley or chives at the end of cooking with a spoonful of water, a dash of balsamic vinegar, and some fresh black pepper. Serve with one slice of allowable wholegrain (wheat free) toast.

Spanish omelette

2 cups of a combination of the following: finely sliced red onion, leek, spinach, cabbage, zucchini, shallots,

chives, parsley, coriander, basil, oregano, chilli, grated carrot, red pepper, mung bean sprouts.

2 eggs plus 2 extra egg whites, stirred to combine

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sprinkle cayenne pepper or cajun spice mix.


In a small skillet cook onions and harder vegetables for a couple of minutes, before adding softer ones, herbs and spices. Stir through. Immediately add egg mixture, reduce heat to lowest setting to avoid overheating eggs, cover with lid and allow to cook almost on stored heat for a few minutes. Flip one half of the omelette over the other to serve.

(2 serves)


Add cubes of fetta cheese to egg mix and grill on medium. Do not flip.

Leftovers: Travels well as part of lunch box or for picnics. Can be used as part of antipasta entrée plate.

Buckwheat waffle with cinnamon yogurt


Teas, juices and vegetable broths can be infused with powerful anti-inflammatory properties, providing nutrients without calories and are an interesting and comforting addition to the daily diet.

Herbal teas

Lemon Tea

Juice of half a lemon, grated rind of 1/2 lemon, 1 teaspoon pure Canadian maple syrup, pinch cayenne pepper or dash Tabasco sauce. Great to have first thing in the morning.

Celery seed tea

Pour boiling water over the herbs and let them steep for 10 to 20 minutes before drinking.

Mint and Ginger Tea

Cup full of chopped mint; 1 teaspoon pure Canadian maple syrup. Pour boiling water over the herbs and let them steep for 10 to 20 minutes before drinking.


Fresh vegetable juice

Try to include a fresh juice every day. Basic good ingredients include apple, carrot, celery, beetroot. Add ginger root and whole fresh lime segments for extra flavour as well as antiinflammatory properties

Flavored Orange juice

Flavour freshly squeezed orange juice with either 1/2 tsp turmeric or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Aromatic Infuser Coffee Mix

4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 Tb ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground mace

15 white or green cardamom pods, ground

Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight dark jar. Add 1/4 tsp. per 1/2 cup of ground coffee before brewing.

Herbal phyto broth

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 inch knob of ginger

2 stalks celery

4 cups water

4 cups chopped herbs you like including red pepper, dandelion greens, horseradish, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, thyme, watercress.

Coarsely ground black pepper and cayenne pepper

Saute finely chopped onion, garlic, celery and grated ginger in olive oil until soft. Add water and herbs.

Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Alternatively prepare to the boiling stage and allow to steep in crock pot, enjoying a bowl of soup as desired. Don’t forget to add the 2 peppers to enhance the usefulness of the herbs.


Brazil nut , Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Almonds , walnuts

Apples, Pears, berries, watermelon, peaches, cherries

1/2 avocado with few black olives

Hummus dip with celery and carrot sticks

Olive paste with celery and carrot sticks (see pharmafoods newsletter)

Beetroot dip

3 large beetroots, cooked and peeled

2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise or thick plain yogurt

1 teaspoon molasses (pomegranate if possible) or honey

1/4 cup finely chopped walnut pieces

salt and pepper

1/4 cup frresh herbs e.g. parsley, mint, dill – some reserved as garnish

Blend cook beets until smooth. Stir through all other ingredients.

Serve on slices of pumpernickel or rye crackers

Guacamole dip

2 avocados

juice and rind of 1 large lime

1 tomato, skinned and seeded and finely chopped

1 tablespoon each minced red onion, chopped coriander, olive oil

salt and black pepper

Mash well to mix all ingredients. Serve with celery and carrot sticks.


SALAD OR SOUP – include a fresh salad or vegetable-based soup as part of your daily menu plan.

Everyday Salads –Choose from the following:

Rainbow Asian Salad

Serve this salad with a small portion of protein, such as chopped chicken fillet, salmon or tofu cubes

1 small carrot, julienned

1 small cucumber, cut into sticks

1/2 cup trimmed green beans, blanched

4 radishes, finely sliced

1 cup bean sprouts

Roasted peanuts and fresh coriander to garnish

Dressing: combine the following ingredients

1 mild chilli, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lemongrass, finely chopped

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon palm sugar, grated

1 tablespoon chopped mint

(serves 4)

Red Cabbage Salad

Serve with a small can of red salmon or sardines. Great with a barbeque.

1. finely sliced red cabbage and red onion marinated in red wine vinegar, honey, caraway, anise, pepper.

2. redslaw – mix with red onion, carrot, radish, grated orange rind, 1 tablespoon homemade mayonnaise

Beetroot Salad

bunch fresh beetroot (3-4)

1 teaspoon raw sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

large pinch of cinnamon powder

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt to taste

Wash and clean beets well. Boil covered until just tender and allow to cool in the water. Remove skin and cut into small cubes. Combine with remaining ingredients and marinate 1 hour.


Orange juice with pinch of cumin powder instead of lemon and cinnamon.

Add finely sliced red onion, dill and yogurt instead of cinnamon.

Marinate cooked cubes of beetroot with horseradish, red wine, cider vinegar, coriander and caraway seeds

Other salad ideas

Tabouli – parsley, mint, red onion

Eating Out ideas:

Japanese – sashimi, tempura vegetables, miso soup, seaweed and cucumber salad

Mexican – avocado dip, chilli beans, salad

Italian – antipasta, minestrone soup, pumpkin risotto, panfried calamari, seafood marinara

Health food shops – wonderful range of salads, soups and juices

Greek – Greek salad, hummus, tabouli, baked fish, white bean casserole

Chinese, Thai and other Asian – Great range to choose from. Avoid sauces with too much sugar and MSG.

Don’t eat a lot of white rice and order a plate of steamed greens such as bok choy or choy sum.

BBQ ideas:

Skewers of fish, prawns, onions, capsicum, zucchini

Octopus and calamari rings, tossed on BBQ plate with herbs and spices, olive oil and lemon juice

Thin steaks, quickly sealed on char grill – top with finly chopped mushrooms cooked with onion and garlic

Everyday Soups

Basic Miso Soup

4 cups chicken, fish or vegetable stock

1 inch piece of ginger, julienned

4 shitake mushrooms, soaked for 1/2 hour

4 oyster mushrooms, sliced

4 shallots, sliced diagonally

2 tablespoons miso paste

Cut soaked shitake mushrooms into thin strips, discarding hard core. Add soaking water to stock.

Bring stock to boil with ginger and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add all other ingredients, stirring to mix miso, and allow soup to steep for a few minutes before serving. Do not boil miso paste.


Using fish stock, add small amounts of seaweed and any seafood at hand.

Using vegetable broth, add tofu cubes, seaweed and baby spinach leaves.

Using chicken stock, add sliced chicken, baby corn and sliced snow peas.

Red lentil soup

1 cup red lentils

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup chopped pumpkin

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 tomato,chopped

2 tablespoon ginger, grated

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 cup coconut cream

fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Saute onion and ginger in oil, add spices and cook till onion is soft. Add lentils, pumpkin, tomato and stock.

Bring to boil and simmer for half an hour, until lentils are mushy. Serve with drizzle of coconut milk and coriander leaves. For a smoother finish, blend half the soup and return to pot before serving.

Citrus Pumpkin Soup

3 cups stock or water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup pumpkin

1/2 cup carrots

1/2 cup sweet potato

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

juice and rind of one orange

juice and rind of one lime

juice and rind of one lemon

Coconut cream and fresh coriander to garnish

Saute onion, garlic, ginger in olive oil. Add orange vegetables, cut into small cubes. Add pepper and turmeric. Add stock and grated rind, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 an hour. Cool slightly and puree soup in blender. Reheat and add citrus juices just before serving. Garnish with coconut cream and fresh coriander

Other soup ideas

Borsch soup

Minestrone soup

Other lunch ideas:

Open faced sandwich (wheat free bread) or rye crackers with toppings such as:

Avocado and ricotta cheese

Can sardines mashed with 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, diced red onion and juice of half a lemon

Fresh or canned salmon mixed with basil and lemon juice

Grilled or fried mushrooms

Baked beans


Asparagus spears tossed with olive oil, vinegar, salt and black pepper

Frittata and salad


Main courses

Salmon Stir -Fry

1 tablespoon light olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, grated

1 brown or red onion, thinly sliced

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

1 carrot, julienned

1 mild chili, thinly sliced

8 oz. salmon fillet, cut in 1_ inch pieces

lemon or lime juice/tamari soy sauce (gluten free) to taste

Prepare salmon by either grilling or poaching. Meanwhile stir fry spices and vegetables over a medium

heat 5 minutes. Serve fish topped with stir fry and accompanied by brown rice if desired.

(serves 2)

Spicy Baked Tuna

2 tuna steaks

1/2 red capsicum, grilled and peeled

3 tablespoons fresh coriander

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds

1 mild red chilli

1 large clove garlic

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

Mix all ingredients except fish in a food processor to make a paste. Coat fish with paste and bake in a high oven (200C) for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.

Serve with mashed sweet potato and a green salad. Garnish with lemon or lime.

(Serves 2)

Steamed chicken with aioli

1 organic chicken

1 leek

2 parsnips

2 carrots

2 sticks celery

1 knob ginger

4 cloves garlic

Coarsely ground black pepper

1 chilli

Place all ingredients in heavy pot. Cover with water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for an hour on lowest setting.


1 cup olive oil

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

salt and pepper

1 clove minced garlic

juice and rind of one lemon

In small bowl or food processor mix egg yolk with mustard and pinch of salt. Whisk or drizzle in oil very slowly. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic. Serve small portion on side with chicken and vegetables.

Retain chicken stock for soup. Stock can be frozen

Chicken Casserole

2 Tb. olive oil

2 onions, sliced

1 large tomato, peeled and seeded

1 kilo chicken thigh cut into pieces

2 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. ground turmeric

1-1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup coriander coarsely chopped

1/2 c. brown or French lentils

fresh coriander for garnish

In a casserole dish lightly fry onions in oil, add chicken pieces and seal, then tomatoes, pepper, turmeric, coriander, and salt. Continue, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Add lentils and cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves

Serve with brown rice and carrot salad..


Substitute a large can of artichoke hearts for the lentils and garnish with preserved lemon

Steamed fish with ginger sauce

2 fish fillets such as salmon, flathead, perch

1 inch cube of ginger, grated

3 shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1 tablespoon light olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce

Steam or poach fish until just cooked.

Heat olive oil and fry ginger gently for 2-3 minutes. Add shallots, stir and remove from heat. Stir through sesame oil and tamari. Spoon over fish fillets and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with steamed bok choy and brown rice.

(Serves 2)

Tuna with buckwheat noodles

1 very fresh tuna steak

1 tablespoon light olive oil

200g buckwheat noodles

2 cups stock

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon Japanese pickled ginger

handful chopped shallots or chives

Baby spinach leaves to serve

Cook noodles until just soft according to directions on pack. Toss in sesame, pickled ginger, shallots and chives and set aside. Meanwhile sear tuna steak in frypan or on barbeque grill for one or two minutes on each side. Watch the cooking process so that the fish remains quite pink, even raw, in the middle. Scatter baby spinach leaves on plate, top with noodles and garnish with strips of diagonally sliced tuna steaks. Serve at once.

Spicy cauliflower curry

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/2 cauliflower cut into flowerettes

1 teaspoon curry powder or to taste


chilli powder to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 teaspoon grated ginger

2 tablespoons stock or water

2 tablespoons yoghurt

2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped

Heat oil in a small pan and stir fry cauliflower pieces, herbs and spices over medium heat about 5 minutes.

Add stock and cover, simmer a further 5 minutes or until soft. Serve with brown rice topped with yoghurt and chopped coriander

(serves 2)

Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon seeded Dijon mustard

1 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons ghee or oil

2 large chillies, seeded and finely chopped

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons turmeric

3 teaspoons ground coriander

1 1/2 cups butternut pumpkin, cubed

1 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed and sliced

1 1/2 cups cauliflower sprigs

1 cup thinly sliced carrot

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon brown sugar or molasses

3 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander leaves

Heat ghee or oil in a heavy pan or wok and fry the chillies, ginger, cumin and fennel until seeds pop. Stir in turmeric and ground coriander then immediately add vegetables and chickpeas. Reduce heat and continue to stir for 5 minutes. Add water, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. If necessary, add a little more stock or water. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Variations which can be added at the end of cooking instead of chickpeas:

Cubed hard tofu

Cashew nuts, raw or roasted

Chopped hard-boiled eggs

(serves 4)

Indian-Style greens with spicy prawns

Traditionally many dark green leafy vegetables and herbs are cooked with spices, but possible choice could include mustard greens, radish greens, beetroot leaves, spinach, rocket, etc. Younger leaves taste sweeter. Older leaves may need to be deribbed.

12 green king prawns

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

250g greens, washed and finely

pinch mustard seeds

pinch onion seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons grated ginger

chopped chilli to taste

2 tablespoons light olive oil or ghee


brown rice to serve

(serves 2)

Mix ground turmeric and cumin and dust prawns in mixture. Leave to one side.

Heat oil or ghee in a frypan. Lightly toss seeds, chilli and ginger until mustard seeds have finished popping.

Add extra turmeric for a few seconds followed by green vegetables. Turn to low heat, cover and simmer a few more minutes until cooked, being careful not to burn the greens. Add salt and remove to serving bowl.

Meanwhile wipe out frypan with paper towels. Add a dash more oil and quickly saute prawns until just cooked. Serve over greens with brown rice.

Lamb Casserole with Prunes

2 Tb olive oil

2 Tb butter

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 lb. leg of lamb, trim off fat, cut in 2″ chunks

2 onions, finely diced

1 c. broth or water

15 sprigs fresh green coriander, coarsely chopped

1 c. pitted prunes

2 Tb. honey

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 tsp pepper

salt to taste

1 Tb toasted sesame seeds

steamed broccoli

In a large casserole dish heat butter and oil on medium-high heat, add turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and lamb. Stir until meat is sealed.

Add half the onion, water, saffron, and coriander. Bring to boil. Then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 1 hour.

Add remaining onion and continue cooking for another 1/2 hour.

Add prunes, honey, turmeric, pepper and salt. Cook a further 15 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, brown rice and boccoli.


Instead of prunes, add 1 kilo of. fresh apricots, pitted and quartered or 1 cup soaked organic (unsulphured) dried apricots.

Moroccan Carrots

3 large carrots

5 cloves garlic

pinch cinnamon

pinch raw sugar

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. paprika

salt to taste

juice of 1 lemon

1 olive oil

1/4 c. chopped parsley

2 1/4 cup chopped coriancer

goat’s cheese

green leaves of baby spinach and rocket

Trim carrots and steam whole with garlic until barely tender.

Drain, reserving garlic. Cut carrots in serving pieces and combine with garlic, cinnamon, cumin, sugar, salt, paprika, and lemon juice. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with olive oil, parsley, coriander and crumbled goat’s cheese.

Accompany with green leaf salad.


Fresh fruit

Unsulphured dried fruit and nuts

Single piece 70% cocoa dark chocolate

Dates stuffed width almonds or marzipan

Bananas fried in butter and lemon juice garnished with chopped almonds and cinnamon

Pears poached in red wine

Peaches grilled with cinnamon

Buckwheat waffle with cinnamon

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