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What you eat can make a difference in how you feel with rheumatoid arthritis. Tasty, natural foods with the right balance of nutrients help you feel better and stay at a healthy weight. And the foods you eat may do even more than that. Some may help cut down inflammation, which makes your joints swollen and stiff.

The Best Way to Eat

Experts keep studying the effects of diet on RA, but they still haven’t found what everyone wants: a diet that improves RA or its symptoms.

Until they do, planning your diet is simple. "People with RA should eat a healthy diet, just like anyone else," says Ruchi Jain, MD, a rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Aim for:

  • Lots of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. They should make up two-thirds of your plate.
  • Low-fat dairy and lean proteins, which should make up one-third
  • Small amounts of saturated and trans fats
  • A little sugar
  • Limited alcohol

"People with RA can get fixated on fasting, skipping meals, or finding the perfect foods," says M. Elaine Husni, MD, MPH, director of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Treatment Center at the Cleveland Clinic. Instead, she says, just be sensible about eating.

Don't make huge changes to your diet. Don't skip meals. Eat three healthy meals and a couple of small snacks a day, Husni says.

Foods That Might Help With RA

There’s no magic RA diet. But research shows that some foods are better for you than others. It depends partly on your health and the medication you take.

  • Fatty fish. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna -- as well as in fish oil supplements -- may help with RA pain and morning stiffness. Omega-3s contain a natural chemical that's similar to some painkillers.
  • Olive oil. Try it instead of other cooking oils. It's better for your heart and may block inflammation.
  • Fiber. Fiber, which you get from plant foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is linked to inflammation.
  • Calcium and vitamin D. RA and some drugs used to treat it can weaken your bones and lead to osteoporosis. This makes you more likely to get broken bones. Get enough calcium and vitamin D (in fortified foods) to help prevent this.
  • Other vitamins and minerals. RA makes you more likely to have low levels of vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E, and magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Ask your doctor if you might need more of these from foods or supplements.
  • Folic acid. If you take methotrexate, your doctor may recommend folic acid supplements. They can help prevent side effects. Folic acid is also in foods like spinach and citrus fruits.

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