Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the tissue around the joints. A good diet can help ease arthritis symptoms. You will need to increase your intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and other nutrients to help your body fight the disease. You will need to eat a variety of healthy foods to keep your body strong. You will also need to avoid sugary, processed foods, as these can worsen symptoms.


Seeking Out Specific Foods to Target Symptoms

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Opt for real foods for the bulk of your diet. There are a variety of vital nutrients you need to reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Many people take dietary supplement, like fish oil pills, to gain essential nutrients. However, the effectiveness of substitutes is unclear. You should get your nutrition primarily from real foods rather than supplements and oils.[1]


  • You do not have to unnecessarily complicate a diet plan for rheumatoid arthritis. A healthy overall diet will help you get you the nutrients you need.
  • Stick to a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins.
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Eat more fish to get Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by reducing inflammation and pain. They are also good for your health overall. Strive to eat fish for a few meals a week. You may notice a reduction in symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The following fish are particularly good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids:[2]


  • Anchovies
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Eel
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Whitebait

Image titled Eat when You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis Step 3Increase your iron intake. Many people with arthritis develop issues with anemia (the inability to incorporate iron into your blood) due to certain chronic diseases. Upping your iron intake can help offset anemia, so strive to get a variety of iron rich foods into your diet. If you decide to take an iron supplement, then you may also need to take a stool softener because iron supplements can cause constipation. The following foods are rich in iron:[3]

  • Dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Red meat
  • Lentils
  • Haricot beans
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Make sure you get calcium. Calcium strengthens bones, which can help reduce symptoms of arthritis. You are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis if you have arthritis, and a calcium-rich diet can help reduce your risk.[4]


  • Low-fat dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese can be a great source of calcium.
  • Calcium-enriched milks, including non-dairy milks like soy milk, can be an excellent source of calcium.
  • Fish eaten with the bones still intact, like sardines, can also help you get more calcium. In addition to providing calcium, you can also get more Omega-3 fatty acids with such fish.
  • Osteoporosis of the hip or spine is common in arthritis.
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Go for pain safe foods during flare ups. Certain foods have not been shown to increase symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. If you experience an arthritis flare up, you should opt for these foods until your pain passes. This will prevent your diet from worsening arthritis pain. The following should be safe to eat during a flare-up:[5]


  • Brown rice
  • Cooked and dry fruits
  • Cooked vegetables, such as artichoke, broccoli, chards, asparagus, collards, sweet potatoes, and spinach

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Talk to your doctor about dietary supplements. If you’re still experiencing arthritis pain after adjusting your diet, supplements may help. However, you should never simply start taking supplements on your own. Without medical testing, you will not know if you have vitamin deficiencies. You also want to make sure vitamins do not interfere with any existing medication.[6]


  • If you want to try supplements, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may want to run blood tests to see if supplements would help you.
  • You should also ask your doctor any questions you have about when and how to take dietary supplements.
  • You may want to take fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, or iron supplements.


Eating a Variety of Healthy Foods

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Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are great for your overall health. A healthy diet overall can reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, so work on incorporating a lot of fruits and vegetables into your diet.[7]


  • Strive to have at least 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruits for each meal, as well as 2 to 3 cups of vegetables.
  • Another idea is to fill half of your plate with vegetables at each meal.
  • The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables greatly help the immune system. As rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, plenty of fruits and vegetables can help counteract its effects.
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Get more beans into your diet. Beans also have antioxidants. In addition to this, they have anti-inflammatory compounds. Try to eat a variety of beans in your diet. They are also heart healthy overall, so they can improve your health in addition to fighting arthritis pain.[8]


  • As beans are a good source of protein, try swapping out the meat in some meals for something like black beans. For example, have a black bean burrito for lunch instead of a chicken burrito. This is an excellent, low-fat healthy alternative.
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Opt for broccoli. Broccoli may slow the progress of arthritis, so incorporating broccoli into your meals is a good idea. Opt for broccoli as your serving of vegetables for a meal. Add broccoli to salads, casseroles, and stir-fries. When eating out, see if steamed or boiled broccoli is an option for a side dish.[9]
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Eat fiber rich foods. High fiber foods can be helpful for your overall diet. For best results, get fiber from real foods over supplements.[10] The following foods are rich in fiber:[11]


  • Fruits like raspberries, pears, apples, and oranges.
  • Grains like whole wheat pasta, barley, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread.
  • Legumes, like lentils, black beans, and split peas.
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes.


Avoiding Certain Foods

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Drink alcohol in moderation only. If you drink at all, stick to only a couple of drinks a day. This is especially important if you’re taking medications that interact with alcohol. While some studies indicate red wine has anti-inflammatory properties, alcohol has a negative overall effect on arthritis so do not attempt to use red wine to treat your pain.[12]


  • Talk to your doctor about alcohol consumption for you. In some cases, you may need to eliminate alcohol altogether.
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Limit saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in foods like meat, butter, and cheese. It can raise cholesterol levels, increasing your risk for heart disease. As people with arthritis are already at risk for developing heart disease, you should limit saturated fat in your diet.[13]


  • On a 2,000 calorie a day diet, you should not have more than 20 grams (0.71 oz) of saturated fat. However, you may need less than that depending on your current health. Talk to your doctor about a safe level of saturated fat for you.
  • Try to consume meats, cheeses, butter, and other foods loaded in saturated fat in moderation. Fast foods and processed foods tend to be high in saturated fat.

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