While people may turn to diet to alleviate symptoms of their rheumatoid arthritis (RA), there is actually very little scientific evidence to prove that certain foods can help manage symptoms of this disease.
Some people turn to elimination diets in an effort to target certain foods that may be making their RA symptoms worse. However, none of these diets have been proven effective for the treatment of RA. In addition, these diets often end up cutting out key nutrients that your body needs to maintain good health. Therefore, I encourage all patients to follow a well-balanced diet, including all major food groups, and maintain a healthy weight as obesity can exacerbate arthritis.
Below are some key points to remember when planning a well-balanced diet:
Variety: Aim to eat a variety of foods. Focus on lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables.
Limit bad fat: Limit foods high in saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat is found in red meat, processed meats, sausage, bacon and high-fat dairy. Trans fat is typically founds in commercial pastries, cookies, cakes and donuts.
Limit refined sugar: Try to limit refined sugar from processed foods and sweets such as candy, soda and fruit juices.
Alcohol in moderation: Alcohol should only be consumed in moderation; this means one drink per day for women and 1-2 drinks per day for men at most.
Calcium: Calcium is important for bone health and regulation of essential nutrients in your body. While calcium is most commonly found in dairy products such as low-fat cheese, skim milk and low-fat yogurt, it can also be found in spinach, cooked greens, broccoli, soy milk, soy beans and tofu. Individuals should take in approximately 1000-1200 mg of calcium per day. Talk to your doctor to see if you should be taking a calcium supplement.
Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Aim to eat a 3-5 oz serving of fatty fish such as herring, mackerel and salmon, at least 2-3 times per week.
Laura Gibofsky, MS, RD, CDN, is a clinical nutritionist in the Hospital for Special Surgery Department of Food & Nutrition Services.