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Rheumatoid Arthritis Basic Nutrition

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Rheumatoid arthritis patients must eat a healthy diet

Numerous books exist on rheumatoid arthritis nutrition, so I won’t get too involved with good or bad foods for RA patients.  What is most important is staying away from foods that create inflammation. Each person is different with their own triggers, likes and dislikes.  What bothers one person may not be a problem for another.  Expect it to be a trial and error process as you create the perfect diet for you.

Avoiding Inflammation

          In general, a Mediterranean-type of diet works best for many RA patients (including me).  Said diet consists of certain seafoods, fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

          Fatty fish, which are high in Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids help keep inflammation under control.  Salmon is my personal favorite of the fatty fish options.  I found several ways to prepare salmon, so it doesn’t become boring.  If you like fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel or other cold-water fish, they will also help control inflammation.

Include Basic Vitamins

          Try to cook fresh vegetables as often as possible, with frozen veggies coming in second when necessary.  Check into the envelopes of tuna packed in various oils as toppings for salads or on crackers or bread.

          Fruits, vegetables and whole grains should make up 2/3 of your dinner plate, and low fat dairy and lean proteins should fill the remaining 1/3.  Nuts are full of heart-protecting nutrients, especially walnuts, because they are high in Omega-3’s.  I try to keep nuts at a minimum because of their high calorie content.

          I long ago switched to cooking with olive oil when possible.  Olive oil contains olecanthal, a compound that reduces inflammation and acts like ibuprofen in alleviating pain.

          My personal downfall with food is whole grains.  I don’t eat enough of them.  Oats, brown rice, whole wheat, and quinoa lower levels of CRP and reduce the risk of heart disease.  You may want to add more whole grains to your diet.

          Limiting sugar in your diet may be the most important and the most difficult.  Sugar releases cytokines in your body that start the inflammation process.  Experiment with various types of foods to find what decreases your pain levels and what may make them worse.

          Avoid, or at least limit, your alcohol intake.  First, it probably won’t mix well with your RA medications.  Second, it’s bad for your liver.

          Green tea and certain fruits increase antioxidants in your body.  I try to drink a cup of green tea most days, because I can’t eat citrus fruits, which are also high in antioxidants.

          One habit I have developed is keeping a large package of fresh, baby spinach in the refrigerator.  Spinach offers so many healthy benefits to our diets and can be used in numerous ways.

          Foods that are known to cause inflammation in many people include processed carbs, such as sugar and white flour.  Dairy, red meat and fried foods tend to cause problems for many.  Processed meats, like bacon or deli sandwich meats may bother some people, so try to eat less of foods containing those ingredients and see if it helps.

The Bottom Line

          Choose healthier options when possible, like fish or chicken instead of red meats.  Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour when baking.  Any foods containing preservatives could be a trigger, so read the ingredients when you shop.  Take time to do a food trial and keep notes to determine which foods trigger your inflammation and/or a flare.

Choosing a diet suitable for rheumatoid arthritis involves trial and error. You will make mistakes. I know I still do! Keeping a log or journal of what you eat and any remarkable results for a few weeks might help.

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