The 7 Best Anti-Inflammatory Snacks for Joint Pain, According to a Dietitian

Help relieve joint inflammation and discomfort with nutrient-packed, anti-inflammatory snacks.

Let's have a hand for your joints: These structures give your body the flexibility and freedom to move in various ways. A normal joint function allows two or more bones to move smoothly against each other without pain or friction while providing the body with a full range of motion and stability. But, when that movement is hindered by prolonged joint inflammation, issues like joint pain and arthritis may arise.

Nearly 1 in 4, or 58.5 million, adults in the U.S. live with arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One way to calm inflammation in the joints is to consume a wide range of anti-inflammatory foods, including in your snacks. But, what makes for a good anti-inflammatory snack? Keep reading to learn what nutrients combat inflammation and the top seven snacks that support joint health.

Pictured Recipe: Berry-Orange Chia Pudding

a recipe photo of the Berry Orange Chia Pudding served in a bowl
Jason Donnelly

What to Look for in an Anti-Inflammatory Snack

Before grabbing your midmorning or midafternoon snack, keep these joint-friendly nutrients in mind.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats found in fish, algae, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds that play a pivotal role in reducing chronic inflammation and joint pain. These fatty acids decrease the production and release of cytokines, which are pro-inflammatory molecules. As a result, research has shown that omega-3s can help reduce morning stiffness, alleviate swelling and lower the number of tender joints, per a 2020 publication in the Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology.


Maintaining healthy bones, joints and cartilage requires an adequate intake of several key vitamins, including vitamins D, C, A, E, K, folate, B6 and B12. According to the Arthritis Foundation, vitamins D, K and A support bone growth. Meanwhile, vitamins E and C are antioxidants that sop up cell-damaging free radicals. Vitamin C is also critical for collagen and connective tissue formation. Folate, B6 and B12 all work together to reduce the risk of bone loss and fractures associated with high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid often elevated in individuals with arthritis.

Packed with Minerals

According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are at an increased risk of bone loss. However, calcium, magnesium and zinc all have one thing in common: They improve bone health. Calcium, in particular, is touted as the primary bone-strengthening nutrient. But magnesium is another mighty mineral essential for strong bones because it helps to improve bone mineralization, per a 2021 article published in Biomolecules.


Phytochemicals ("phyto" meaning plant) are naturally occurring compounds found in a wide array of colorful plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. These powerful substances are associated with a decreased risk of various diseases, including arthritis. In fact, a 2022 article published in Scientific Reports found that individuals who consumed a phytochemical-rich diet lowered their odds of knee osteoarthritis. Why? These plant compounds may help reduce inflammatory molecules and oxidative stress associated with arthritis.

Best Anti-Inflammatory Snacks for Joint Pain

Need to get snacking? Here are seven great picks for painful joints.

1. Nuts and Nut Butters

From walnuts to almonds, peanuts and pistachios, nuts are as rich in nutrients as they are in flavor. One to focus on? Walnuts. Teeming with phytochemicals and an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), walnuts have been shown to lower several inflammatory markers, per a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Nuts also boast an impressive amount of magnesium, vitamin E and B6. So, when you need to quell hunger between meals, nuts and their creamy counterparts (nut butters) are the perfect snack.

2. Fresh Fruit

Bursting with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, fruit is an excellent snack for improving and maintaining joint health. Filled with collagen-forming vitamin C, citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, mango, papaya and pineapple are the perfect fruits to add to your snack rotation. Pineapples also contain an enzyme known as bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory properties and may help to relieve arthritic pain, per a 2021 study published in Life.

3. Fish on Whole-Grain Crackers

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are significant sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. These nutrient-dense fish are specifically high in two important omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). According to a 2021 study published in Advances in Nutrition, EPA and DHA both work to tame inflammation and reduce pain. Prepare your fish salad with olive oil before spreading it over whole-grain crackers, and you'll reap the benefits of consuming oleocanthal, a phytochemical that reduces inflammation, per a 2018 study published in Endocrine, Metabolic, and Immune Disorders.

4. Berry Chia Seed Pudding

Hidden within their deep red, purple, blue and black pigments, berries contain myriad compounds known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are incredible phytochemicals revered for their ability to reduce oxidative stress and extinguish chronic inflammation, per a 2020 study published in Antioxidants. This may mean that the anti-inflammatory effects of berries could help quell joint pain. Eat berries by themselves or use the fruits to top omega-3-rich chia seed pudding made with calcium-rich milk or a milk alternative.

5. Veggies and Bean Dip

Enjoy an assortment of colorful vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, radishes and peppers with a protein-packed bean dip for the ideal joint-healthy snack. Vegetables are loaded with nutrients such as vitamins A, C and K, while beans impart folate, fiber, zinc, potassium and magnesium. In addition, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which has been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory molecules in inflamed joints, per a 2021 article in PLoS One.

6. Dark Chocolate

With its irresistible flavor and tantalizing aroma, dark chocolate contains a wide range of phytochemicals that reduce pain and inflammation, per a 2020 article published in Pain and Therapy. Pair a few squares of chocolate with a handful of nuts or berries, and you have a delicious anti-inflammatory on-the-go snack.

7. Matcha or Green Teas

No snack is complete without a beverage to wash it down. Matcha or regular brewed green tea is one of the best drinks for joint pain. Why? Green teas contain a phytochemical called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that helps to maintain healthy joints and skeletal muscle, per a 2020 article published in Antioxidants.

Other Tips to Manage Your Joint Pain

In addition to consuming anti-inflammatory nutrients, you can manage your joint pain by:

  • Limiting highly processed foods high in sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and salt.
  • Staying active by participating in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, per the CDC.
  • Stretching your joints by completing gentle range-of-motion movements.
  • Using heat and cold therapies to help alleviate inflammation and aching joints.
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking, which can increase inflammation and worsen joint pain.

The Bottom Line

Managing inflammatory joint pain and arthritis requires the daily intake of several key nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. What better way to obtain these nutrients than by consuming them in the form of delicious snacks? From nuts to dark chocolate and colorful fruits and vegetables, snack time might just become your favorite time of the day.

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