You wake up in the morning and before your feet even hit the floor, you know it. It’s going to be a bad one. A day filled with joint pain.
It’s frustrating because you do your best to be healthy. You avoid junk food and try to stick to a balanced diet. And you make sure you keep moving in spite of the joint pain.
In other words, you’re doing everything right, but you’re still suffering.
Well, brace yourself, because you could be in for a shock. It turns out there may be a surprising trigger for your joint pain hiding in plain sight in your home.
These kitchen table culprits—some of which are perfectly healthy foods—could be CAUSING your aches and pains.
In fact, many of the foods we eat every day can contribute to the inflammation that triggers joint pain.
11 foods that are causing your joint pain
If you happen to be sensitive to one (or more) of these hidden joint pain triggers you very well could be making your pain worse without even knowing it!
Many of us enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine from time to time. After all, experts say in moderation alcohol could have some health benefits. But if you suffer from joint pain, you might want to reconsider this “healthy” habit because it could be behind your aching knees, knuckles or big toe.
Yes, I did say big toe. You see alcohol is associated with a specific kind of arthritis called gout which often shows up as intense pain in your big toe. But even if you don’t have gout, if you’re sensitive to alcohol it can increase inflammation throughout your body, including in your joints.
Cutting back on, or eliminating, the alcohol may finally ease your joint pain. Give it a test for a few weeks to find out.
2. Chinese food:
Did you meet up for dim sum? Or order Chinese delivery last night? If so, that could be the culprit behind this morning’s joint pain.
While more restaurants are getting better about eliminating monosodium glutamate (MSG) from their menus, many still make liberal use of this flavor enhancer. And MSG can reportedly trigger joint pain in folks who are sensitive to it. When ordering Chinese always specify no MSG.
But you’re not out of the woods yet. MSG is often hiding in other common foods too. Scan the labels of any prepared soups, soup mixes, gravies, salty snack foods, and salad dressings. It’s also found in some yogurts, pepperoni, and parmesan cheese.
Since MSG can occur naturally in some foods, you may not be able to eliminate it entirely from your diet. But you can certainly make a dent.
3. Diet soda:
If you made the switch from regular, sugary soda to diet soda years ago, you’re in good company. Diet sodas were supposed to be a healthy alternative. Get the soda taste you’re craving, without the consequences.
Well, it turns out nothing could be further from the truth. There are bunches of reasons to ban all diet soda from your menu. In fact, we’ve shared many of them right here in Healthier Talk.
But there’s one more you can add to the list. Diet sodas made with the artificial sweetener aspartame can trigger inflammation and contribute to joint pain.
The answer isn’t to switch back to sugary sodas, of course. They’re packed with high fructose corn syrup and creepy chemicals that are terrible for you too.
Still craving a fizzy drink? Do your joints (and the rest of your body) a favor and switch to seltzer instead.
4. Frozen vegetables:
Veggies are good for us. So how did they land on a list of foods which trigger joint pain? Well, the good news is most frozen veggies are perfectly fine.
But the ones which come with some sort of sauce can cause trouble. These sauces often contain trans fats which trigger body-wide inflammation and joint pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation trans fats, which are hidden inside lots of prepackaged foods from crackers to margarine, should be avoided.
And while the packaging may lead you to believe they’re trans-fat free you need to carefully read the label. If you spot hydrogenated oils, they’re still in there. A product can still have up to 0.49 grams of trans fat in a so-called “serving” and still claim to not have any.
5. Grilled chicken:
What can be healthier than tossing a chicken breast and some fresh veggies on the grill? Well, I told you to brace yourself. Unfortunately, some perfectly healthy foods can trigger joint pain in some folks.
The problem isn’t actually the chicken or the vegetables (or even the beef, for that matter). The trouble is the grilling process itself. Cooking food at high temperatures creates AGEs, or advanced glycation end products. And AGEs increase inflammation, which in turn can trigger joint pain.
Don’t worry; you don’t need to give up on your grilling. Invest in a good meat thermometer and monitor your grilled food. Aim to keep temps below 325. That’s when AGESs and carcinogens begin to form. Burgers need to be a minimum of 160 degrees, steaks should be 145 and that chicken breast needs to cook until it’s at least 165 degrees.
If you’re fond of adding mayo to your sandwiches, salad dressings, casseroles, and more, you might want to look for an alternative. Most mayo is made with soybean oil which is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. (Grapeseed, cottonseed, safflower, corn, and sunflower oils are all high in omega-6s too.)
We need omega-6 in our diet. But since omega-6 and omega-3 are in competition to be absorbed by our cells, we need to make sure we’re getting the right one-to-one balance. Unfortunately, the common Western diet is typically a shocking 10 to one. Which is a virtual recipe for inflammation and joint pain.
To figure out if omega-6s are behind your aches and pains try eliminating some foods high in omega-6 from your meals for a few weeks to see if your joint pain eases up. You can also balance out your fatty acid levels by eating more fish and taking a fish oil supplement.
And if you can’t stand the thought of giving up the mayo make your own at home or look for one made with olive or avocado oil.
We’ve warned you about drinking low-fat and skim milk before. But in this case, it’s any kind of dairy-based milk you might want to avoid. If you’re sensitive to a protein called casein, milk and other dairy products are likely to cause you joint pain.
Not everyone is sensitive to casein of course. In fact, some folks who suffer from arthritis find milk and dairy to be helpful in reducing joint pain. So it’s best to try a simple elimination diet—removing dairy from your diet for a couple of weeks—to see if you feel better or not.
Even if you’ve cut back on the carbs as we’ve advised, you might still be splurging on a pasta dish from time to time. But if you had pasta last night, it could very well be the cause of your tender joints this morning.
If you happen to be gluten sensitive the gluten found in regular pasta—as well as any foods made from wheat or other related grains such as rye, oats or barley—could be causing your joint pain.
If you suspect you might be allergic to gluten, try a gluten-free diet for a few weeks. These days there are many gluten-free options at the grocery store. If you are sensitive, your joint pain… along with a number of other troubling symptoms… should begin to ease up within days.
9. Dried cranberries:
Fruit is a healthy snack. But once you remove the water you’re concentrating the sugar. And no matter whether you suffer with joint pain or not you should limit the dried fruits in your diet.
A half-cup of fresh cranberries contains about two grams of sugar. But half a cup of sweetened dried cranberries is about 37 grams.
But sugar of any type—even natural sugars—could also be contributing to your joint pain. Sugar creates the same AGEs that grilling food does (see #5), which means it can lead to the same inflammation and joint pain.
Try reducing all sources of sugar in your diet including the ones coming from dried fruit. And you might find your joint pain shrinking right along with your waistline.
Healthy, delicious, nutritious, and sometimes painful. If your joint pain is triggered by any vegetable or fruit found in the nightshade family, tomatoes go from the healthy to hurtful list fast.
To test it out try removing tomatoes from your salads, sauces, and sandwiches for a little while and see if your joint pain gets better. If it does, you’ll probably want to avoid eggplant and potatoes, as well.
11. White rice:
White rice can deliver a one-two punch of joint pain. First, your body treats highly processed white rice and other refined carbs essentially like sugar causing aches and pains. Plus refined carbs increase the ache-linked AGEs we covered earlier.
Switch from highly refined white rice to brown rice, whole grains, and other healthier, versatile, and delicious options.
Stop simply living with joint pain. Boot these kitchen table culprits from your menu today and celebrate as your aches and pains finally start to fade away.