Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet: Foods to Eat
The role of diet and its influence on RA symptoms is controversial, but many foods and supplements have been tried by others with RA who have reported good results. There is even some research confirming the role some foods and supplements play as part of an RA friendly diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids have inflammation-fighting qualities. In fact, one recent report, published in Arthritis Care & Research, finds eating fish two or more times a week is linked to lower disease activity in people with RA.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish sources (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines), ground flax and flaxseed oil and walnuts. Fish oil supplements are also a good way to get your omega-3 fatty acids but they can cause unpleasant stomach and intestinal side effects.
Saturated and Trans Fats
There are some studies indicating a link between inflammation from statured fats found in red meat and full-fat dairy products. Similar arguments have been made for trans fats, which are found in hydrated oils, margarine, and fried foods.
Monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, are less likely to increase inflammation. And while there isn’t a daily intake recommendation for monounsaturated fats, they can replace saturated and trans fats, provided they are used in moderation.
Research has linked low vitamin D levels to increased risk of RA. Studies also show RA symptoms tend to be worse in people with low levels of vitamin D.
One report, published in Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism, finds vitamin D deficiency is widespread among people with RA and that vitamin D supplementation can offer pain relief.
The Office of Dietary Supplements in the United States recommends 4,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D for ages 9 and up. Reduced doses are recommended for children aged 8 and younger.
Few foods are rich in vitamin D and include oily fish and fortified milk and juice. Most people need daily supplements and sunlight a few times per week to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.
The Mediterranean Diet
Many people who are seeking to decrease inflammation have adopted the Mediterranean diet, so it should come as no shock that this diet plan may also decrease symptoms for RA sufferers.
So, what does the Mediterranean diet entail?
The Mediterranean diet is rich in fats and fiber. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish are a staple; primary choices include salmon, sardines, herring, and anchovies.
Olive oil is also prominent. The fats in fish and olive oil are “good” fat and can help lower chemicals in the body that cause inflammation.
Fruits and vegetables are also a main component of the diet. These are essential because they are rich in antioxidants, which are known to decrease inflammation. Fruits and vegetables that are bright in color tend to be higher in antioxidant levels; excellent choices include berries, sweet potatoes, oranges, melons, broccoli, tomatoes, and carrots.
In general, supplements should be taken only with the approval of your doctor. Supplements may interact with medications so it best to get the go-ahead.
It is also best to get the necessary nutrients from foods, if possible. However, sometimes supplementation may prove beneficial.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, a selenium supplement is believed to help control inflammation because it is an antioxidant. Selenium is found naturally in whole-wheat foods.
However, it may increase the risk of developing diabetes, so pros and cons should be weighed with your doctor and those who have diabetes may not want to take this supplement.
Vitamin D may help older women to ward off rheumatoid arthritis because it is known to boost immune function. It can be taken as a supplement or can be consumed by eating foods rich in vitamin D.
There are not a lot of foods that contain vitamin D, but foods that contain this vitamin include mushrooms, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as bread, milk, and juice.
Next page: To reduce RA symptoms there are certain foods that should be avoided in your diet. See the next page to learn more about which foods exacerbate RA symptoms.