Fruit Acids and your Joints

Q.: Can excess fruit acids affect your joints? I eat lots of tomatoes and am getting pains in my hands and knees – could they be the cause? Oliver


Thanks for an interesting question. The short answer is yes. Excess fruit, and other dietary-source acids, are capable of affecting the joints. Without a full dietary history and consultation we can’t tell whether this is definitely so in your case, but maybe I can provide you with a little food for thought.

Tomatoes are a bit of a culinary conundrum in that raw, ripe tomatoes are considered non-acid-forming in the body, whereas cooked tomatoes are regarded as acid-forming. The raw, ripe fruit is believed to be a relatively non-acidic food in the macrobiotic dietary system, as well as in many naturopathic diet programmes. The pH value of tomatoes is usually listed as between 4 and 4.7 on the acid-alkaline scale, which is somewhat lower than other red fruit like strawberries and plums, with relatively more acidic pH values of 3.4 and 2.9, respectively.

However, when it comes to lycopene and tomatoes, and their raw versus cooked value, it’s another story. Lycopene (a fat-soluble antioxidant compound) is considered to be higher in tomatoes that are cooked (with some healthy fat, which is needed for optimal absorption) than in the raw fruit. Swings and roundabouts! But don’t despair – you can get your lycopene fix from other food sources such as guavas, watermelon and pink grapefruit, and there’s also some in apricots and yummy persimmons.

The only easy way to ascertain whether tomatoes are specifically responsible for your joint pain is to eliminate them from your diet for a few weeks and see whether things improve. Don’t change anything else in your diet during that period, since you want to be able to determine whether tomatoes are the villain or not. You can then challenge your body by introducing them into your diet once again and observing whether the pains return. Each body is unique, and if you let it, yours will speak to you – loud and clear, and hopefully free of pain! I hope this will help you to resolve your problem. If not, consult your health care provider for a thorough examination and further investigations. Let us know how it goes!


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Fruit Acids and your Joints

Dr Sandi Nye
About The Author
- Dr, ND. She is a naturopath with a special interest in aromatic and integrative medicine, and is dual-registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA). She serves as editorial board member and/or consultant for various national and international publications, and is in private practice in Pinelands, Cape Town.