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Learn how weight loss can decrease the effects of arthritis and help you live a better, more comfortable, life.

Nutritional Diet for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) seek out the concept of "food as medicine" as an effort to reduce inflammation. But is there a diet for rheumatoid arthritis and nutrition guidelines? Experts weigh in on foods to eat and foods to avoid for people with rheumatoid arthritis.


Individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) experience mild to severe pain, swelling, and discomfort in their joints. To reduce associated RA symptoms, treatments are sought out for comfort measures. Some seek out the concept of "food as medicine" as an effort to reduce inflammation. But is there a diet for rheumatoid arthritis and nutrition guidelines? Experts weigh in on foods to eat and foods to avoid for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Foods to Eat

An RA diet aligns with an anti-inflammatory diet meal plan, reducing inflammation in the joints. A well-balanced diet is encouraged and embodies the following anti-inflammatory foods:

Whole Grains
Unlike refined grains, whole grains provide the body dietary fiber which may reduce inflammation. Additionally, research has shown people living with RA generally have low levels of selenium, a mineral found in whole grain wheat products. Choose oats, whole wheat, corn and popcorn over refined, processed goods such as white breads, pastries, and desserts. If dealing with conjoined RA and Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, eliminating or reducing gluten intake - specifically wheat, barley, and rye products intake - can ease joint pain. Speaking with a medical professional can further guide you to a following a safe gluten-free diet.

Fresh Produce
Whether from fruits or vegetables, the vibrancy of fresh produce offers anti-inflammatory nutrients.

• Beta-carotene found in carrots and sweet potatoes is transformed to vitamin A in the body and has anti-inflammatory properties.
• Low levels of vitamin B6 may encourage inflammation in individuals with RA and cause more joint damage. Vitamin B6 can be found in starchy vegetables and non-citrus fruits.
• Vitamin C found in oranges and citrus fruits not only may have anti-inflammatory benefits, but is the building block of collagen found in skin, cartilage, ligaments, and blood vessels. Efficient collagen building can promote stronger joints.
Green, leafy vegetables contain vitamin E and K and demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties. Evidence further shows increased vitamin K levels reduce inflammatory markers in the body.

Fatty Fish
Cold-water fatty fish has the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat with powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Anchovy, tuna, herring, rainbow trout, and halibut are just a few significant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. If you do not desire fish, omega-3's can also be found in canola oil, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, pumpkin seeds, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and may be fortified in breads and cereals.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is considered to be a "healthy" fat which may reduce inflammation. EVOO contains oleocanthal, an inflammation-blocking compound and works similar to the medication known as NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Choose EVOO in place of butter and margarine while cooking. Keep an eye on portions though, as a serving size is one tablespoon.

Foods to Avoid

To reduce symptoms and severity, it is best to avoid foods that cause inflammation. Experts suggest omega-6 fatty acids may actually boost inflammation when their consumption exceeds the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of omega-6 fatty acids include corn, sunflower, and soybean oils along with several fried foods. In general, a wholesome diet that limits fat and sugar intake can lead to weight loss or maintenance. A healthy weight can reduce joint pain, as carrying around excess weight is heavy and tough on joints.

Reference: Nutrition Guidelines for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Available at:

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on December 11, 2015. Updated on August 18, 2016.


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