16 Foods to Eat or Avoid for Psoriatic Arthritis

Certain foods may calm psoriatic arthritis–related inflammation; others may make it worse.

woman shopping for fruit at farmers market

A Mediterranean-style diet can ward off inflammation related to psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis?is a type of inflammatory autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the joints, leading to symptoms like pain and stiffness.

While there’s no cure for?psoriatic arthritis, your prescribed treatment plan and certain lifestyle adjustments — like an?exercise regimen?and an?anti-inflammatory diet?— can control inflammation and alleviate your symptoms.

“A healthy diet is always a good idea regardless of your disease,” says?Martin Bergman, MD, a clinical professor of medicine at?Drexel University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Not sure how to overhaul your eating habits? Research has found that the?Mediterranean diet?offers anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to people who have psoriatic arthritis.

The?National Psoriasis Foundation?advises people who have psoriatic disease to choose from a variety of foods that offer a range of nutrients, eat regularly to fight the fatigue often associated with the disease, and watch portion sizes. Remember that being overweight can affect the severity of your condition and the effectiveness of your treatment.

Still, finding what works for you involves some trial and error.

“It’s generally best to strive for moderation and balance,” says?John M. Davis III, MD, a consultant in the division of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “This may require input from a physician or dietitian.”

Meanwhile, start by learning more about these 16 foods that could help — or hurt — your?psoriatic?arthritis.


Eat: Salmon


Salmon is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids — which can ease symptoms like?joint pain and swelling?and prevent related health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

The?American Heart Association?recommends eating salmon and other fatty fish, such as bluefin tuna, mackerel, herring, and anchovies, at least twice a week to protect your heart health.


Eat: Whole Grains


Whole grains like brown and wild rice, whole-wheat pasta,?quinoa, barley, and bulgur?wheat are loaded with?fiber?and can help maintain normal blood?cholesterol levels.?High blood cholesterol?is a major?risk factor for heart disease?— and psoriatic arthritis may increase that risk even more. Inflammation of the blood-vessel wall is aggravated by high amounts of blood fats, like cholesterol, explains Dr. Davis.

The?Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics?recommends that women aim to get 25 grams (g) of fiber a day and that men get 38 g a day.

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Eat: Cherries and Berries


Cherries and berries — particularly dark varieties, like blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries — contain phytonutrients called anthocyanins, which help calm inflammation, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

A study published in Nutrients found that consuming cherries in particular — both sweet and tart varieties — may help decrease inflammation in the body.

Meanwhile, strawberries and raspberries are packed with vitamin C, which is thought to regulate blood pressure.


Eat: Apples


An apple a day keeps inflammation away. Quercetin, the most abundant flavonoid in apples, has been found in a review to modify inflammatory responses by inhibiting the release of?prostaglandins, inflammatory compounds that cause pain.

Apples are also rich in the?soluble fiber?pectin, which fills you up and may help you cut back on snacking — good to know, since weight loss is linked to lower inflammation in the body.


Eat: Kale


Kale?is another nutritional powerhouse to include in an?anti-inflammatory diet?for psoriatic arthritis. Rich in fiber and?vitamins A,?C, and K, kale contains a wide array of flavonoids with a variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Need more of a reason to up your kale intake? Preliminary?research?suggests that curly kale may inhibit tumor necrosis factor-alpha, the same inflammatory protein targeted by many of the?biologic drugs?for psoriatic arthritis.


Eat: Peppers


Sweet bell peppers and spicy chili peppers are filled with the phytochemical?capsaicin, which packs a powerful punch against inflammation.?Research shows that capsaicin reduces levels of substance P, a compound in the body that is thought to trigger inflammation and pain impulses from the central nervous system (CNS). Red peppers are also filled with salicylates, which are aspirin-like compounds.


Eat: Olives and Olive Oil


Extra-virgin olive oil is another must-add to an anti-inflammatory diet. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat (oleic acid), antioxidants, and oleocanthal, a compound that can lower inflammation and pain similarly to?ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Oleic acid can reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein.

Along with snacking on green and black olives, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil when cooking or in salad dressings each day.


Eat: Garlic


You might think of it as just a way to add a little flavor, but?garlic?is technically a vegetable — one that’s loaded with potent inflammation-fighting?phytonutrients, including sulfur compounds. Research suggests these compounds have an anti-inflammatory effect and that garlic supplementation can reduce inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and TNF-alpha.


Eat: Turmeric


Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is a potent inflammation fighter. This spice contains the chemical curcumin, which has been traditionally used in?ayurvedic medicine?as an antioxidant and cleansing digestive aid. Some research has found that curcumin helps reduce inflammatory factors and can improve psoriatic skin lesions, though high doses may be needed to have an effect.

Turmeric is available as a capsule, tablet, or as an extract, and is also used in products such as sauces, cheese, chips, and even tea. Studies suggest that combining turmeric with?piperine, found in black pepper, can increase the amount of curcumin?absorbed by the body by up to 2,000 percent.

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Eat: Nuts


Nuts are a good source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which help?lower cholesterol and reduce the incidence of heart disease — a condition that people with psoriatic arthritis are at high risk for. Nuts also come packed with minerals and nutrients to fight inflammation. Walnuts are high in alpha-linolenic acid, an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid. Almonds and cashews are high in magnesium, which helps maintain joint cartilage, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

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Eat: Probiotics


Probiotics, found in yogurt and fermented foods, introduce good bacteria into the gut, and research has shown that people with psoriatic arthritis have lower levels of these good microorganisms. While the effect of probiotics on people with psoriatic arthritis is still under review, and the connection between gut health and autoimmune conditions continues to be studied, incorporating probiotics in the diet may lower disease activity.

Probiotic supplements come in various formulations, and it can be confusing to know which ones to take. They’re not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but look for third-party tested supplements with at least 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs).

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Drink: Green and Black Tea


Research notes that the antioxidants found in green and black tea may be more potent than those found in many fruits and vegetables. Tea also contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called polyphenols that have been shown in studies to inhibit the production of nitric oxide, an inflammatory compound.

In particular, the?polyphenol epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG), found in green tea, may block inflammatory cells that damage cartilage, according to the Arthritis Foundation.


Avoid: Fatty and Processed Meats


While choosing the right foods to add to an anti-inflammatory diet is important, steering clear of certain foods is equally essential. Fatty?red meats?as well as processed meats are at the top of this list. These foods, like prime rib, bacon, sausage, bologna, and hot dogs, not only contribute to the inflammatory process in the body, they also contribute to weight gain. This can become cyclical, as weight gain promotes inflammation and even reduces the effectiveness of certain psoriatic arthritis medicines. Meanwhile, many people who have psoriatic arthritis may be overweight and less likely to exercise?because of pain and inflammation — compounding their risk for heart disease.

Start reversing the trend by choosing lean meats and plant-based?sources of protein. In fact,?case studies suggest that a plant-based diet may help control immune-mediated diseases like?psoriasis?and psoriatic arthritis by targeting pro-inflammatory markers in the body.


Avoid: Sugary Foods and Drinks


According to the Arthritis Foundation, refined sugars in soda, juice, chocolate, desserts, and other baked goods?likely fuel inflammation.?Plus, too much sugar leads to?weight gain, which can further tax your joints and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, cautions Davis.

Read food labels to look for sources of sugar, such as fructose or sucrose. Instead, when your sweet tooth strikes, snack on fresh fruits to satisfy your craving.


Use Caution: Dairy


It’s well known that milk is rich in?calcium, which is important for healthy bones. But the saturated fat in dairy products can cause inflammation, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

On the other hand, milk has a wealth of other nutrients that might be beneficial to people with inflammatory arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

If you're not sure whether to consume milk or other dairy products, talk to your doctor about your individual needs.

If you find you have difficulty digesting dairy products, you may have lactose intolerance?or a sensitivity to other components of milk and should perhaps steer clear of it. Fill your diet with calcium-rich alternatives, like oranges, spinach, and?almonds?instead.


Use Caution: Eggplant


Certain vegetables in the nightshade family — including eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes — may aggravate symptoms for some people who have psoriatic arthritis, according to Davis. The culprit could be a chemical called solanine, which is often found in these foods. On the other hand, there’s no definitive proof that these vegetables aggravate arthritis, adds Dr. Bergman.

If you find that nightshade vegetables cause problems for you, avoid them in favor of a?variety of vegetables?that offer anti-inflammatory benefits without triggering your symptoms, such as kale and other?leafy greens.

Diets are often very individualized, Bergman adds. What works for one person may not work for another. “Regardless of what foods you eat or avoid,” he says, “weight loss in conjunction with a healthy diet has been shown to have a positive effect on reducing disease activity.”

Additional reporting by Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD, and Nina Wasserman.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Is there any particular diet that helps to control psoriatic arthritis?
  • Are there supplements I should be taking?
  • What’s a safe way for me to lose weight?
  • How can I tell if I’m sensitive to a certain food or type of food?
  • Is it okay for me to drink alcohol?