There is more to a good diet than choosing nutrient-rich foods. Proper nutrition helps maintain optimal body health and can support healthy joint function. It is also important to know which foods to avoid. There are compounds found in certain foods that can trigger occasional oxidative stress in the joints, leading to common joint discomfort. Making the right food choices and knowing which foods to limit will keep you moving in a healthy direction.

Foods To Avoid for Better Joint Health

There is truth to the phrase, “you are what you eat.” The foods you consume provide nutrients to support every cell in your body. However, some foods will work against your goals for long-term joint health. 

1. Sugar 

When it comes to sugar, it is important to differentiate natural sugars from processed or refined sugars found in fruits. A diet high in added, processed, or refined sugars can alter the gut microbiome balance, affecting joint health through unwelcome immune responses. Consuming too many added sugars can also interfere with weight management goals, which can strain healthy joints. 

What to try instead: Grab some fresh fruit when you want something sweet and save the cake, cookies, and candy for special occasions.

2. Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are not to be confused with omega-3 fatty acids, which help support joint health. Omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for normal body growth and development, but consuming too many fatty acids can contribute to common joint discomfort. It is important to maintain a healthy balance of fatty acids in your diet. 

What to try instead: Omega-6 fatty acids are found in safflower, peanut, soy, corn, and vegetable oils, and fried foods. Many processed snacks contain large concentrations of these fatty acids too. Instead, choose olive and canola oils for cooking and fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as alternative snacks. 

Olive oil on a rural wall by the Mediterranean

3. Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are a type of dietary fat that comes from animal sources, including meat and dairy products and coconut oil. Long-term consumption of these fats can contribute to fatty acid accumulation in the cartilage, changing its metabolism and reducing its integrity. Cartilage in this state becomes an easy target for occasional oxidative stress, and like sugar, saturated fats can affect healthy weight management and increase strain on the joints. 

What to try instead: Limit the intake of red meats and consider switching out some of your dairy products for non-dairy alternatives. Oils that have unsaturated fats can be used for cooking, such as olive and canola oils.

4. Processed Foods

Fast food, some breakfast cereals, and baked goods are typically high in refined grains, added sugar, and preservatives, associated with occasional joint discomfort. These foods are often chosen for convenience, but long-term consumption can work against your healthy weight goals and may lead to occasional stiff and sore joints. 

What to try instead: To maintain a healthy weight and reduce consumption of processed foods, prep and plan to cook your meals at home with wholesome grains, lean meats, and fruits and vegetables with every meal. For alternative snacks, try nuts and seeds with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Nuts and dry fruits in wooden bowl

5. Nightshade Vegetables

The nightshade family includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. While these vegetables are full of valuable nutrients, some may be linked to unnecessary immune system responses, which can cause joint discomfort in some people. Because these vegetables are a nutritious and worthy addition to your diet and not everyone has the same responses after consumption, test them first, using the elimination method

What to try instead: Should you find that any of the nightshade vegetables are associated with joint discomfort, eliminate them from your diet and replace them with other vegetables containing similar nutrients. 

Something Extra to Support Your Joints

Whether you are a long-time athlete or just advancing in age, joint discomfort and various forms of everyday wear can impede your daily health goals and activities. A healthful diet is one way to provide the essential nutrients your body needs to maintain joint health. In addition to this, you can promote mobility and flexibility with the comprehensive joint support of supplements like MoveMD®.


This doctor-formulated, proprietary formula provides comprehensive support for joint health. Clinically-studied ingredients, ApresFlex®, Boswellia serrata, and Zanthin® Natural Astaxanthin, are fast-acting and help reduce unnecessary oxidative stress and common joint discomfort. Several types of potent natural collagen are added to support connective tissue health, while hyaluronic acid maintains healthy joint synovial fluid viscosity for healthy flexibility and mobility. 

1MD Nutrition's MoveMD bottle in a lab setting

Final Thoughts

Everyday wear on your joints naturally occurs with age, and this may lead to common joint discomfort. It is important to support joint flexibility, mobility, and range of motion to maintain quality of life. Don’t let everyday joint aches slow you down. A balanced diet that limits these top foods, combined with regular exercise and the fast-acting joint support of MoveMD® will help you hit the ground running every day.

Dr. Adam Kreitenberg


Dr. Adam Kreitenberg is dual board-certified in both rheumatology and internal medicine. He completed his internal medicine internship, residency, and rheumatology fellowship at the University of Southern California and Los Angeles County Medical Center.