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Foods That Help RA

Eat a Healthy Diet

There's no perfect plan to help people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) feel better, but eating a variety of healthy foods is good for your overall well-being and weight. You might try the Mediterranean diet, which features fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that can lower inflammation.

Get Fishy

The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, trout, and other cold-water fish can fight inflammation, so they're good for people with RA. Omega-3s in fish and fish oil help ease aching joints and morning stiffness. Eat about two 3-ounce servings of fish each week.

Think About Supplements

If fish isn't your thing, omega-3 supplements may ease morning stiffness. They could even help you cut back on anti-inflammatory medicines. Borage seed oil may also relieve pain along with your RA meds. Always talk to your doctor about any supplements you take.

Switch to Healthy Fats

Saturated fats -- those found in butter and red meat, for examples -- are linked with inflammation. So, limit those and get your fats from healthier choices, like nuts and avocados. Instead of butter, try olive oil, which may lower pain and inflammation.

Work In Whole Grains

Fiber is good for your digestion, and it can also ease your inflammation. Look for breads, crackers, and cereals that list "whole grain" or "whole wheat" as part of the first ingredient.

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

Most of them are full of antioxidants, which boost your immune system and may fight inflammation. Antioxidant-rich fruits include prunes, raisins, and berries. Best veggies include kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. Don't forget fresh, leafy greens. They're a great source of both fiber and folic acid. If you take methotrexate, folic acid can help ease some of the drug's side effects.

Cook Up Some Beans

They're another tasty way for you to get fiber and protein. Fiber can ease inflammation caused by your RA, and protein can help keep the muscles that support your joints strong. Beans are an excellent, meat-free source of protein. Enjoy them in chili, as a side dish, or whipped into a healthy dip like hummus.

Don't Forget Calcium

Calcium and vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium, are important when you have rheumatoid arthritis. They can help prevent the bone loss that can come with taking corticosteroids for your RA. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources. If dairy isn't part of your diet, you have food options: beef liver and egg yolks for vitamin D, leafy greens for calcium, and fatty fish and fortified products (cereal, orange juice) for both. Supplements may be an easier way to get the recommended amounts, though.

Think About Nightshades

Some people think veggies from the nightshade family -- tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and some peppers -- worsen RA symptoms. But there's no proof that they do. If you think a certain food is making your RA worse, don't eat it for at least 2 weeks, and see what happens when you add it back.

Spice Things Up

Spices like turmeric and ginger may ease inflammation. You can add them when you're cooking. If you're taking blood thinners, talk to your doctor first. The spices may make bleeding more likely.

Drink Green Tea

Green tea may ease inflammation and joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis. Plus, tea -- green, black, white, and oolong -- is filled with antioxidants that boost your immune system, called polyphenols. You'll still need your medication, but tea is a good drink choice.

Work With an Expert

Your doctor or dietitian can help you fine-tune your diet and decide if you need supplements. A dietitian can also create a meal plan that takes into account your medications and your lifestyle, so you'll be more likely to stick with it.

Eat Well

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on October 15, 2014

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