7 Foods To Eat And 7 To Avoid For Psoriasis

Imagine you have a friend (we'll call her Jill) who confides in your that she has been getting rashes, but she can't figure out why. Jill explains that they come and go, and are itchy and sore; sometimes, her skin gets so cracked that it bleeds. Of course, if anyone comes to you with a health problem, you should recommend that they seek out a healthcare professional for a diagnosis. With that said, if you or a friend or a family member is experiencing the above symptoms, they could be signs of psoriasis (via the Mayo Clinic).

Psoriasis can come with a number of symptoms, which tend to occur as flare ups that can last for months. Often, a psoriasis patient will experience rashes on their knees, scalp, elbows, and torso, although it's possible to experience a patchy rash all over most of one's body. Not surprisingly, there are different types of psoriasis, which in some cases are more likely to occur on certain areas of the body. Additionally, psoriasis can go hand in hand with other health problems like psoriatic arthritis and heart disease (via Healthline).

At this time, we are still learning about psoriasis and haven't discovered a cure for it (per the Mayo Clinic). However, that doesn't mean there aren't options for managing psoriasis, including making certain dietary changes. 

Avoid: Sugar

If you have psoriasis, it would likely benefit you to avoid added sugars (as opposed to the natural kinds found in, say, fruits) in your diet (via Johns Hopkins). So, you might have to cut out foods like baked goods, soda, and candy.

Large amounts of added sugar can be a very bad choice for a psoriasis patient, since our bodies store that excess sugar in our fat cells. This can lead to the fat tissue becoming inflamed, which is the last thing someone with psoriasis needs. Additionally, added sugar can raise the amount of a type of protein called cytokines. And not only can cytokines cause inflammation, but some believe they might also increase cholesterol and blood sugar levels, creating the perfect storm of events for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD (per WebMD). In fact, Dr. Rheinchard Reyes, a family medicine doctor specializing in adult medicine, says on his website that patients typically have both psoriasis and NAFLD. 

With that said, he also noted that the findings of a study from the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine's Department of Dermatology pointed to reducing consumption of other foods and beverages (like alcohol and gluten) to help psoriasis symptoms. The bottom line is, we cannot say for certain that every person with psoriasis who eats added sugar will experience worsened symptoms. Nevertheless, reducing the added sugar in one's diet is, in general, usually recommended for one's health.

Try: Cherries

If you have psoriasis, then there's one word you should keep in mind — inflammation. While we are still learning about psoriasis, some patients find incorporating more foods that might reduce inflammation into their diet helps them manage their psoriasis better (via WebMD). Case in point: Cherries could be a good anti-inflammatory food for a psoriasis-friendly meal plan.

While it's possible to confuse cherries for berries because of their size, cherries are actually drupes or stone fruits like peaches and olives, per Britannica. According to Harvard Health, stone fruits are good sources of vitamin C. And as WebMD points out, there is research supporting vitamin C being a good nutrient for psoriasis patients. Plus, cherries are loaded with inflammation-reducing phenolic compounds, which are phytochemicals (via ScienceDirect). As the name suggests, phytochemicals are compounds found naturally in plants, per another ScienceDirect article.

Additionally, there's research that cherries might be beneficial for people with health issues concerning cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure (per Harvard Health). They may also reduce one's chances of having an attack from gout. And if you find you're sore after exercising, snacking on cherries might help reduce that post-workout discomfort. Plus, like other stone fruits, cherries have both fiber and potassium. However, even though cherries are potentially good for psoriasis, a slice of cherry pie probably has added sugar, which could be bad for a psoriasis patient, via Johns Hopkins.

Avoid: Alcohol

Even if someone with psoriasis is just an occasional drinker, even a small amount of alcohol can be enough to affect their skin condition in more than one way, via WebMD. First, alcohol can interact with medication used to treat psoriasis, making it less effective. Second, alcohol might not only trigger the symptoms of psoriasis, but may also lead to less symptom-free time between flare-ups.

Alcohol might worsen inflammation, which in turn can worsen the effects of psoriasis. To be fair, there is debate with some members of the scientific community believing that more research is needed into factors like whether or not certain types of alcohol are more likely to trigger psoriasis-related health issues. But with that said, there is a theory that alcohol's effect on certain chemicals in the brain could be why it potentially worsens inflammation and, in the process, impacts psoriasis.

It's important to keep in mind that psoriasis can be difficult not just physically, but also psychologically. Psoriasis can lead to low self-esteem, which can result in depression and anxiety. This can lead to the patient drinking alcohol more often, and that might trigger psoriasis flare ups. In other words, a psoriasis patient can find themselves in a vicious cycle.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Try: Onions

A classic gag in animation is using onions to make someone cry. Of course, anyone who's ever tried to cut an onion gets the joke right away. But whether onions are your favorite food or not, they could be a good addition to a psoriasis management diet.

As Good Housekeeping explains, a major reason why onions might help with psoriasis is because they have quercetin, a compound that might help reduce inflammation. According to a study in the European Journal of Pharmacology, quercetin can have an antioxidant effect on the body. This means that it could help your body fight off harmful molecules called free radicals, which could lower inflammation (via Healthline). And in case you were wondering, yes, quercetin is also in other potentially-good-for-psoriasis foods like cherries and berries (per Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care).

Although eating foods that contain quercetin might help with psoriasis, Healthline notes that we're still exploring quercetin as an anti-inflammatory treatment, and that there's a need to conduct more studies into its impact on humans. With that said, if you want to talk to your doctor about adding onions to your psoriasis-friendly diet, you might want to also ask about garlic, since it also contains quercetin (via Good Housekeeping). Lastly, qercetin is available as a supplement, but as always, check with a medical professional before using any supplement.

Avoid: Fried foods

If you've ever been to a fair, chances are you at least saw (if not tried) a variety of different types of fried foods. From vegetables to desserts, just about any type of food can be fried (with varying results). But when you cook even healthy foods in hot oil, it changes them not just in terms of their taste and appearance, but also in terms of fat content, via GoodRx. And that can make a big difference when it comes to psoriasis.

So, here's a little cooking 101. As GoodRx explains, frying foods in oil results in the food absorbing the oil, which is why fried foods are higher in fat than their non-fried counterparts. The process also raises the number of calories. And as dermatologist Dr. Anthony Fernandez told the Cleveland Clinic, foods that are high in calories can lead to an increase in body fat. Since body fat and inflammation can go hand in hand, that means fried foods — and in particular, the kinds served at fast food establishments — might be bad choices for someone with psoriasis. In fact, Windsor Dermatology notes that regularly consuming fried food can result in more inflammation and worse psoriasis symptoms.

Besides potentially be bad for psoriasis, fried foods can also raise cholesterol, which can damage blood vessels and put strain on one's heart (per GoodRx). Higher cholesterol levels can lead to a stroke or a heart attack.

Try: Fish

It's possible that when it comes to "surf and turf" meals, you're more into the turf and less into the surf. But for someone with psoriasis, fish can be a great choice, since fish contain omega-3 fatty acids (via Healthline). In fact, two of the three main kinds of omega-3s — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — are found in fish.

To understand how omega-3s might help with psoriasis, think for a moment about the Tin Man in the classic movie "The Wizard of Oz." When we first meet him, he needs his joints lubricated with oil in order to function properly. Now, of course, unlike the Tin Man, we don't have to worry about our bodies rusting. But omega-3s do lubricate our cells, which can help lower inflammation and in turn possibly improve symptoms of psoriasis. And of the three types of omega-3s, the two found in fish have really captured the attention of the scientific community, in part because of their ability to reduce inflammation.

So, does that mean any fish will do if you want to increase your omega-3 fatty acids? Basically, but there are some standouts for their omega-3 content. These include herring, cod, salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Additionally, the American Heart Association recommends black cod, as well as striped bass, anchovies, whitefish, cobia, and bluefin tuna. And while shellfish and fish are different types of animals, shellfish do contain DHA as well.

Avoid: Gluten

This next suggestion will probably only help certain psoriasis patients — namely, those individuals who have problems digesting gluten, a protein sometimes found in food products like bread (via the American Academy of Dermatology Association or AAD). But if you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, then there is evidence supporting that going gluten-free might help with psoriasis flare-ups.

As the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explains, celiac disease is an immune disorder where eating gluten results in damage to one's small intestine. According to the AAD, celiac disease symptoms can include belly pain, extreme tiredness, flatulence, and often experiencing diarrhea. However, a person doesn't have to have celiac disease to experience problems digesting gluten. Fortunately, a medical professional can run tests to determine if someone has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

So, how effective can a gluten-free diet be at managing psoriasis? One study involved 39 psoriasis patients, 33 with problems digesting gluten and six without (via AAD). Even though all 39 patients went on a gluten-free diet, the six patients with no problems eating gluten didn't experience less psoriasis. Of the remaining 33 patients, 73% saw a difference in their psoriasis. So, even if you have either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity as well as psoriasis, going gluten-free may help improve your psoriasis.

Try: Walnuts

If you search online for foods that might be good for psoriasis, chances are a number of websites will recommend nuts. As Healthline explains, walnuts in particular are usually highly recommended in general for psoriasis patients. However, not everyone is in agreement about these little nuts.

Nuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-3s might be good for reducing inflammation and supporting your immune system. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that taking omega-3s in supplement form along with using topical treatments for psoriasis could help reduce symptoms. And since walnuts are not only a convenient snack but also ingredients in various meal options, this might seem like an ideal food to add to one's psoriasis management diet.

But not so fast. As Healthline points out, walnuts have a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). When your body consumes ALA, it can change it into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), per Mount Sinai. The problem is, there's evidence that only a very small amount of ALA becomes effective EPA and DHA in the body. So, since EPA and DHA are both available in fish, you might find that having salmon for dinner does more to manage your psoriasis than walnuts as a snack.

Avoid: Refined grains

Usually, the word "refined" hints at something positive. Someone with "refined taste" or a "refined sense of style" tends to be thought of as cultured and learned. But when it comes to psoriasis, seeing "refined" on a food label for grains might not be a good thing.

As the Mayo Clinic explains, grains are seeds of grasses and are made up of three parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. When a manufacturer makes refined grains, they remove the bran and the germ and, in the process, a good number of the grains' nutrients. This is the case with white flour and white rice, which (according to WebMD) are lacking in nutrients and fiber, especially when compared to their whole-grain counterparts. This means they get processed by the body more quickly, which can cause blood sugar spikes and possibly inflammation. Other foods that might be made from refined grains include bread, crackers, pastries, desserts, and cereals.

Of course, some refined grains (and even some whole grains) are fortified with nutrients, including some that might not occur in the grain in nature, per the Mayo Clinic. These grains are usually called enriched grains. It's possible for a product to have a combination of refined and whole grains, though, so it's important to be a conscientious consumer and check Nutrition Facts labels carefully (via MyPlate).

Try: Turmeric

Not everyone is a fan of foods seasoned with certain herbs and spices. But as Good Housekeeping points out, these dashes of flavor might help reduce inflammation. So, if you have psoriasis and are making adjustments to your diet, you might want to consider adding herbs like turmeric to your meal plan. However, there are some things to keep in mind, especially if you want to try turmeric supplements.

According to Mount Sinai, turmeric contains an antioxidant called curcumin. Antioxidants may not only help defend your body against potentially inflammation-causing free radicals, but also aid in repairing the damage caused by them. Additionally, curcumin can help reduce the levels of two types of enzymes that can be the culprit behind inflammation.

Although there has been research supporting turmeric's ability to reduce inflammation, not all studies have reached this conclusion. And like other herbs, turmeric can interact with medications, supplements, and even fellow herbs. For example, Mount Sinai advises speaking with a medical professional about turmeric and curcumin if you're on blood thinners, different medications used to treat diabetes, or drugs that reduce stomach acid. Also, turmeric and curcumin supplements have the potential to cause stomach ulcers if they're taken in large quantities for an extended period of time.

Avoid: Dairy

Here's the good news: Even if you have psoriasis, you might not need to completely cut all dairy out of your diet. But if you suspect that dairy might be worsening your symptoms, there are a couple of things to consider.

First, as Johns Hopkins notes, the fat content of dairy can make a difference when it comes to psoriasis. Fat can trigger inflammation in one's body, which is certainly not good for psoriasis. Thus, dairy products that are loaded with fat might not be good choices for a psoriasis patient. Also, being lactose intolerant (which is when a person doesn't have enough of an enzyme needed to break down the sugar in milk, per the Mayo Clinic) can worsen inflammation and contribute to psoriasis-related health problems. In addition, someone might have problems digesting a protein called casein, which is found in milk. And just like with lactose intolerance, this health issue can worsen inflammation.

Of course, if you suspect you're having any of the above health problems, you should make an appointment with a healthcare professional right away for a professional diagnosis. And if it's determined that your psoriasis is being aggravated by the high amounts of fat in certain dairy products, you might still be able to eat smaller amounts of low-fat dairy foods, depending on what your doctor recommends (per Johns Hopkins).

Try: Blueberries

There's nothing quite like blueberries at breakfast time. From having them in muffins and pancakes to just throwing a handful into a bowl of cereal, these little berries are definitely a great food to start anyone's day. But if you're only eating them first thing in the morning, you might want to explore adding them to other meals if you have psoriasis.

As Health Central explains, blueberries can be an excellent part of a psoriasis-friendly diet, since they are known for reducing inflammation. Blueberries contain compounds called flavonoids that might have an antioxidant effect on the body (via Medical News Today). Plus, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, which might also be beneficial for someone with psoriasis. According to Nutrition Data, you can get 24% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C from a single cup of blueberries.

Beyond possibly being beneficial for psoriasis patients, blueberries can also be good for a heart-healthy diet (per Medical News Today). This is significant, as having psoriasis and developing heart disease can go hand in hand (via Healthline). But with all that said, if you're on blood thinners, then you should speak with your doctor before adding blueberries to your diet. Because blueberries have vitamin K, a nutrient that helps our blood clot. This means eating blueberries could interfere with blood thinning medication.

Avoid: Processed meats

Complete this sentence: Processed meats are a) cured, b) smoked, c) salted, d) preserved, or e) any of the above. If you guessed e, you're absolutely right. As Southeast Dermatology Specialists explains, a manufacturer might use any of those processes on muscle or organ meat to produce processed meat. And there's no denying that some of these meats are quite popular, but they also can be problematic for psoriasis patients.

According to Good Housekeeping, the additives and preservatives used to turn regular meat into processed meat can also cause inflammation. These include salts, which can draw water out of skin cells and cause dehydration and damage, per Southeast Dermatology Specialists. Plus, processed meats can contain sugars, and that can lead to increases in blood glucose levels. This, in turn, can result in higher levels of a fatty lubricant matter called sebum, which could worsen psoriasis. In fact, there is concern that even unprocessed meats might still have hormones that could increase the body's sebum production.

Additionally, processed meats are usually loaded with saturated fat, which can also increase the amount of inflammation in one's body (via Good Housekeeping). So, if you always have a hot dog at a baseball game or enjoy having a slice of pepperoni pizza or a sub loaded with deli meat when eating out with friends, you might have to give those up if you have psoriasis.

Try: Olive oil

When it comes to healthy eating choices, olive oil usually makes the "good foods" list. And there is evidence supporting that it might be helpful if you have psoriasis. However, not every study supports olive oil as a psoriasis treatment.

As WebMD explains, olive oil contains omega-3 fats, making it potentially a good addition to a psoriasis-friendly diet. This is why some psoriasis patients look into the Mediterranean Diet, since olive oil tends to be a major part of it. Per research, eating foods that are typically allowed on the Mediterranean diet (like olive oil, fish, fruits, and vegetables) might help someone with severe psoriasis lessen their symptoms. In fact, a study in JAMA Dermatology found a possible connection between not following the Mediterranean Diet and having severe psoriasis. However, a study in International Immunopharmacology involving mice found that eating olive oil actually worsened the mice's psoriasis symptoms.

The bottom line: Scientists are still exploring olive oil's potential impact on psoriasis as both an oral and topical treatment. According to research in Dermatology Research and Practice, multiple studies have concluded that applying olive oil to skin affected by psoriasis could be beneficial. RxConnected advises that using olive oil on scalp psoriasis might help keep one's skin moisturized, as well as loosen skin flakes.