Diet and Nutrition

Foods to Eat if You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

Foods to Eat if You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

Key Takeaways

  • While numerous studies have failed to come up with a magic potion that can cure rheumatoid arthritis, researchers have been able to highlight a direct link between specific types of foods and the inflammation that is seen in this condition. 
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis should eat foods that contain zinc, magnesium, folic acid, selenium, calcium, and vitamins C, D, B6, B12 and E.
  • It would be wise to consult with your doctor if you plan on taking supplementary medicines.

What is rheumatoid arthritis? 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive inflammatory disorder that can result in swollen and painful joints. There are no particular types of bacteria or types of viruses that cause this disease, because the culprit is the person's own immune system. The condition occurs when the immune system begins to attack the cells of bones and surrounding tissues. There is no definite cure for this disease. However, certain foods, especially those with anti-inflammatory properties may provide relief.

While numerous studies have failed to come up with a magic potion that can cure rheumatoid arthritis, researchers have been able to highlight a direct link between specific types of foods and the inflammation that is seen in this condition. Before you start a new food program or pop any supplements, it is best to consult your doctor. Either the supplements or the diet may react in an unplanned manner with your traditional treatment. For patients who have rheumatoid arthritis, the best way to manage your condition is to eat a well-balanced diet which should contain mostly plant-based foods. About two-thirds of your food should be vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Low-fat dairy and fresh cuts of lean protein should complete the patient’s diet.

Omega-6 fatty acids, which are present in corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and in a variety of common fried foods, are also a major cause of inflammation. When more omega-6 fatty acids are consumed than omega-3 fatty acids, then an imbalance is created that increases the presence of inflammation and obesity. Eating lots of seasonal vegetables and fruits can ensure you resist processed foods that are often nutritionally empty.

Many patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may require more of specific vitamins and minerals due to the effects of menopause or steroids. The usual deficiencies are zinc, magnesium, folic acid, selenium, calcium, and vitamins C, D, B6, B12 and E. Experts all agree that nutrition should come from your dietary habits and not from supplements whenever possible. It would be wise to consult with your doctor if you plan on taking supplementary medicines.

Foods to eat more often

  • Rheumatoid arthritis patients can increase the amount of fish that is included in their diets. Fish contains certain substances that help to fight inflammation. Fish should be eaten at least two times in a week, experts say. Salmon, herring, tuna and mackerel are some of the best anti-inflammatory fish.
  • For those who are vegetarians or dislike fish, the same anti-inflammatory substances are present in soybeans. They are a great addition to any diet, since they have high protein and fiber contents with minimal fat.
  • Changing the type of oil in which foods are cooked can also decrease inflammation. Some of the better options include extra virgin olive oil, avocado, safflower oil and walnut oil, and these also help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Some studies have shown that cherries can help to reduce the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis because they contain anthocyanins. These anti-inflammatory substances can also be found in raspberries and blackberries.
  • It is very important to include dairy products in the diet of a rheumatoid arthritis patient. Milk, yogurt and cheese contain large amounts of calcium and vitamin D, which are both helpful in maintaining bone strength. 
  • If a person is allergic to dairy products, green leafy vegetables may be substituted in their diet because they are also rich in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Studies show that broccoli is good for those with rheumatoid arthritis, because it contains a compound called sulforaphane which slows down the progression of the disease. Broccoli is also rich in vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium.
  • It is recommended to increase green tea intake. It contains beneficial substances like polyphenols and antioxidants, which help decrease inflammation and cartilage destruction. Some studies have shown that green tea also contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which prevents joint damage associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Doctors have suggested that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers consume more of certain citrus fruits like oranges, grapes, limes, and other fruits that are a significant source of vitamin C and help to prevent inflammation.
  • It is advised to eat foods that contain whole grains. These have shown to decrease the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, a typical marker of inflammation. CRP is measured for rheumatoid arthritis as well as a range of diseases like diabetes, myocarditis, etc. Oatmeal, brown rice and certain cereals are rich sources of whole grains.
  • Red beans, kidney beans or pinto beans should be eaten two to three times a week. These beans have many positive qualities like high fiber content that helps in decreasing CRP, folic acid, and other ions which stimulate the immune system.
  • When anti-inflammatory foods are considered, garlic should not be forgotten. Studies show that people who regularly include garlic in their diet experience less symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Diallyl disulphide is a beneficial compound that limits the damage of bone and cartilage and it is found in garlic.
  • Some nuts should also be considered for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, because they are high in protein, calcium and alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic acid improves the immune system and helps in fighting rheumatoid arthritis. Nuts are also an important food group for patients who suffer from heart problems. A few good types of nuts include walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds.

Supplements for rheumatoid arthritis

Studies have clearly indicated that a patient with rheumatoid arthritis has a lack of selenium, which is a mineral commonly found in wheat-based foods and in crabs and oysters. Selenium is thought to contain antioxidants that are helpful in reducing inflammation. On the other hand, selenium is also known to increase the risk of diabetes, so consulting your doctor before taking any kind of supplement is very important.

The crucial thing to remember for a patient who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis is that they have a well-balanced and nutritious diet. One of the best diets to follow is the mediterranean diet, which consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and sometimes allows a glass of red wine.