Rheumatoid Arthritis - How Food Can Help

Updated: Apr 8

By Wendy Behenna March 1, 2022

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system starts attacking healthy joint tissue cells in the body by mistake. It usually attacks the linings of the small joints in the body like the hands, fingers, toes, and wrists often causing chronic inflammation, swelling and pain. There is no known cure, so the best goal is to try and manage these symptoms. Unfortunately, many people are given NSAID’s to help with the pain but long-term use of these types of drugs may cause more problems over time.

Foods to Avoid

Foods can have a big impact on the way we feel so avoiding foods likely to cause inflammation is very important to stop relying totally on drugs. Foods like processed meats, gluten, dairy, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils found in store bake goods and some crackers, too much sugar and fried fast foods may be causing more harm than we realize.

Foods to Include

The Culinary approach to healing inflammation is to incorporate as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible in our diet. Different foods have different benefits so by eating a variety a food you are getting a bundle of goodness in every bite.

Cold water fish like wild caught salmon, Atlantic mackerel and sardines are high in Omega 3 which has been found to help reduce inflammation. Incorporate fish 2 to 3 times a week in your meal plans by enjoying dishes like fish tacos, sardines on crackers as a snack, baked salmon or canned salmon in your salad.

Walnuts are another powerful food known for it’s amount of Omega 3. Choosing walnuts of the raw and unsalted variety will give you a boost of fiber and help fight the inflammation. Enjoy walnuts in a nut mix, make some walnut nut butter, or add them to your baked goods or granola.

Broccoli and other vegetables from the cruciferous family – cauliflower, cabbage, kale contain a compound called sulforaphane which may help with inflammation. Broccoli is also high in Vitamin A, C and K which helps to fight free radical damage.

Turmeric is very well known for its anti-inflammatory properties due to a

compound it contains called curcumin. Turmeric lattes and dishes with turmeric have become very popular these days. Don’t forget the ginger either! Often these two powerful spices are used in combination to give you a real big dose of anti-inflammatory power.

Green tea contains a strong antioxidant called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which helps to combat free radicals and help with inflammation. Want even more bang for your buck? Drink a cup of Matcha (green tea ground into a fine powder) for even more of this antioxidant power. Matcha can be drunk on its own, added to baked goods, or enjoyed in puddings and smoothies.

You can round off your meal with some healthy inflammation fighting fruit like cherries, blueberries, red grapes, or raspberries. All these fruits are rich in anthocyanins which is a powerful antioxidant to help with inflammation. Cherries have been shown to be especially good for arthritis. Eating cherries when in season or drinking a small shot of 100% tart cherry juice are both good options.

It's Up to You

Dietary choices are one of the most important things we can do for our health. We have control over what we eat. Choosing foods that can heal is certainly a step in the right direction. Be patient with yourself. Once step at a time will get you where you want to be.

Wendy Behenna is a retired Medical Laboratory Technologist who now uses the kitchen as a "lab" to create healthy, real food dishes. As a graduate of the Culinary Nutrition Program, she wants to share the knowledge she acquired to help people with meal planning and cooking skills, especially those transitioning to a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle. She is also a Certified Tea Sommelier and loves incorporating tea in her recipes when possible.

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