Because you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you might need extra help to get all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Your diet is key. It’s the best source for nutrients. Go for foods that are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. You can ask your doctor if you also need to take supplements.
What it is: It’s a B vitamin called “folic acid” in supplements and fortified foods, and “folate” in its natural form in many plant foods.
Why you need it: It supports your metabolism, and in pregnant women, it helps prevent some birth defects. Some common RA drugs such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), interfere with how the body uses folic acid.
How much you need: Adults should get 400 micrograms of folate or folic acid daily. Two exceptions: Pregnant women should get 600 micrograms per day, and breastfeeding women should get 500 micrograms per day.
How to get it: Foods rich in folic acid include asparagus, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, garbanzo beans, lentils, peas, and oranges. Some items, such as orange juice, bread, and cereal, are fortified with folic acid. The label will say so.
What it is: It’s a mineral that your bones and muscles need.
Why you need it: If you take corticosteroids for your RA, it’s harder for your body to absorb calcium from your diet. That can lead to the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, which make broken bones more likely. RA itself can also lead to bone loss.
How much you need: It depends on your age, gender, and whether you’re pregnant.
- Adults younger than 50: 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day
- Pregnant women: 1,300 milligrams per day
- Women ages 51 and older: 1,200 milligrams per day
- Men ages 71 and older: 1,200 milligrams a day
Your doctor might recommend an even higher amount, so ask how much you need.
How to get it: You can get calcium from dairy foods, canned sardines and salmon, almonds, broccoli, kale, and fortified products, such as orange juice, cereal, and some soy or almond milks (check the label).