Arthritis and Sugar, Good or Bad?

elderly woman serving sweets

Regardless of the time of year, there will be many sugary temptations that will be tough to resist! You might be asking yourself— is it really that bad if I binge on some sweets this year? At Arthritis Knee Pain Centers®, we’re all about moderation.

Overindulgence is never a good thing, and there are plenty of functional workarounds for responsibly satisfying your sweet tooth without quitting cold turkey. Beat your osteoarthritis pain this Valentine’s Day and every day by being mindful of the following tips and tricks!


Consuming too many processed sugars can lead to the release of cytokines, pro-inflammatory proteins that can lead to increased joint pain, stiffness, and swelling for those already suffering from osteoarthritis. In addition to these cytokines, refined sugars can also lead to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders.

Related video: 5 Foods That Help Reduce Joint Pain


    Avoiding the dessert table is never easy so we recommend prioritizing certain sweets over others. If you plan on indulging in some pastries, chocolates, and other delicacies, it might be a good idea to opt for fruit-based desserts. This way, you can satisfy your sweet tooth while simultaneously getting some nutritional value.
    When was the last time you read the nutrition label on the back of that soda can you drink with every meal? The average can of cola is packed with a whopping 140 calories and 39 grams of pure sugar. Not only does this worsen your existing arthritis symptoms, but it also significantly raises your likelihood of developing heart disease and other metabolic disorders like diabetes. Rather than putting yourself at risk, it’s smart to start substituting that soda with healthier alternatives.

    Video: The Unexpected Reason To Cut Back On Sugar

    Starting your day with a “cup of joe,” be mindful of what you’re ordering! That caramel macchiato might sound delicious, but the flavored syrups and preservatives are jam-packed with fake, sugary ingredients that aren’t doing your health any favors. Instead, try opting for raw honey, stevia, or unsweetened milk options!
    As always, moderation is crucial. By controlling your food portions, you significantly reduce your potential for weight gain. This is critical since obesity leads to an increased level of stress on the knees and hips, vastly worsening arthritis pain. Consider downsizing your sugar intake by opting for one scoop of ice cream instead of two or having a small candy bar instead of the large!

Beware of Hidden Sugars

Exploring Hidden Sugars in Processed Foods

When it comes to sugar, it’s not just the obvious sweets and sugary beverages that can throw your diet off course. Hidden sugars lurk in many processed foods, making it essential to be vigilant about ingredient labels. Breakfast cereals, yogurt, and even seemingly healthy granola bars can be loaded with added sugars, masquerading under different names like high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or maltose. This sneaky addition can contribute to inflammation, worsen arthritis symptoms, and undermine your overall health.

The sweet Deception of Condiments

Condiments can be innocent-looking additions to your meals, but they often hide a sugary secret. Ketchup, for instance, can contain a surprising amount of added sugar. It’s not just limited to ketchup; barbecue sauce, salad dressings, and even some pasta sauces can be sugar bombs. While these condiments may seem harmless in small amounts, they can quickly add up, leading to excess sugar intake. Checking labels and opting for sugar-free or low-sugar alternatives can help you avoid this hidden source of inflammation.

Unmasking Sugars in Sauces

Sauces, whether used in cooking or as a dip, can be another unsuspecting source of hidden sugars. Asian stir-fry sauces, for instance, often contain significant amounts of sugar to balance flavors. Even seemingly healthy options like marinara or tomato sauces can be culprits.

To tackle this, consider making your own sauces at home, where you have control over the ingredients. Alternatively, look for low-sugar or sugar-free versions when purchasing pre-made sauces, helping you keep your sugar intake in check.

Strategies for Sugar Sleuthing

To avoid hidden sugars effectively, become a diligent label reader. Check the ingredient list for any words ending in “ose” (e.g., sucrose, fructose, glucose) or terms like “syrup” or “sweetener.” Also, pay attention to the order of ingredients; the closer to the top of the list, the higher the quantity in the product. Opt for products with little to no added sugars whenever possible, and choose whole, unprocessed foods as the foundation of your diet.

By staying vigilant and informed, you can uncover and eliminate hidden sugars, ultimately helping to reduce inflammation and manage your osteoarthritis more effectively.

Navigating the Sugar-Osteoarthritis Relationship

The relationship between sugar and osteoarthritis is a complex one. While it’s essential to remember that sugar, in moderation, can be a part of a balanced diet, excessive consumption can exacerbate inflammation, worsen joint pain, and contribute to various health issues. The key lies in making informed choices, focusing on anti-inflammatory foods, and diligently monitoring your sugar intake.

Ultimately, for people with osteoarthritis, it’s about striking a balance and adopting a holistic approach to nutrition. Consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to create a personalized dietary plan that suits your specific needs and helps you manage osteoarthritis symptoms effectively while maintaining overall health and well-being.

These simple practices may seem small, but you’ll be amazed at how they reduce your osteoarthritis pain. If your knee is hurting, give Arthritis Knee Pain Centers® a call at 1-833-300-5633 or click here to schedule your no-charge, no-obligation pain assessment.

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