Shopping for Arthritis-Friendly Foods

1. What's in Your Grocery Cart
Eating right for your arthritis and your overall health begins with what you buy. So emphasize nutrient-rich foods and skip fatty, sugary, processed products that stoke inflammation and sabotage weight loss. Learn what to buy – and what to skip – for an arthritis-friendly diet.
2. Produce: Shop the Rainbow
High-fiber, low-calorie and nutrient-dense, fruits and veggies can satisfy hunger while delivering inflammation-fighting antioxidants. They get their pigments from antioxidants, such as the deep red, blue and purple of anthocyanin and the intense oranges and yellows of betacarotene. In-season, locally grown produce is best. It's usually cheaper, fresher, nutrient-rich – and tastes better, too.
3. Deli: Build a Better Sandwich
Load it up with dark greens, tomato, shredded carrots, bell peppers, olives and onions. Keep it meat-free or choose a low-sodium meat with flavorful condiments, such as spicy mustard or oil and vinegar with dried Italian spices. Skip the sliced bread for lower calorie wraps and pocket. Add veggies with hummus, or legume-based dips (including edamame and lentil) to boost protein and fiber.
4. Meat & Seafood: Opt for Lean Meats and Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is the most potent and easily absorbed source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. It's a great substitute for red meat, which has been linked to increased inflammation. Chicken and turkey are also great choices. Meat lovers should buy leaner cuts, such as sirloin, flank or tenderloin. Processed meats are high in sodium, sugar and preservatives.
5. Pasta & Grains: Expand Your Pasta Palate
Expand your palate beyond whole-wheat and brown rice. There are pastas made of quinoa, farro and chickpeas that are protein- and fiber-rich. And don't be afraid of shortcuts. Some "instant" or quick-cook versions are just as healthy as slower-cook options.
6. Frozen: Go Simple
Frozen fruits, vegetables and even fish can be just as nutritious as fresh, especially when fresh options are out of season. Skip the added sauce, sugar or fat. Although high in sugar, some frozen yogurts have probiotic benefits. Look for a "live and active cultures" seal on the package. For convenient frozen meals, select those with high fiber (3 to 5 grams), zero trans-fat and less than 600 mg of sodium and 5 grams of saturated fat.
7. Canned, Jarred & Packaged: Shop Lightly
Always watch sodium levels – 5% (120 milligrams) or less per serving. Drain and rinse to remove excess liquid. Look for fruits preserved in their own juice, not in a sugary syrup. Garbanzos, lentils, cannellinis and other beans and peas are low-fat, nutritional powerhouses brimming with protein, fiber, iron and B vitamins, particularly folate. And they're great non-meat options too!
8. Bread & Cereals: Stick With Whole Grains
Refining a grain strips away key nutrients. Whole grains help lower CRP levels, control weight and may reduce risks of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. High-fiber foods are filling, which helps control hunger. Choose products with less than 140 mg per serving of sodium and the least amount of sugar.
9. Dairy & Refrigerated: Trim the Fat
Dairy's benefits for your heart and bones are widely known. But dairy can be pro-inflammatory if you are allergic or lactose intolerant. Keep milk – as well as yogurt and fresh cheeses, such as cottage and ricotta – skim or low-fat. If you prefer soy or almond milk, be sure to read the nutrition label. Unless it's fortified, it might not have the same nutritional profile as cow milk. Also try probiotic and fermented foods, such as non-fat Greek yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut.
10. Snacks: Read Labels Carefully
High sodium and sugar and other unhealthy additives are common in processed snacks. So keep them to a minimum if you can't avoid them. Veggie-based snacks are a healthier option. Roasted garbanzos, lentil chips, crisped snow peas and other vegetable and legumes snacks are tasty replacements for potato and corn chips. Popcorn is easy to fix but skip high sodium with a popcorn machine instead of the microwaveable kind.
11. Learn More
Turn your arthritis-friendly shopping cart into great meals and snacks. View and browse our recipes!

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