Although there are no foods that cause lupus or that cure it, eating a well-balanced diet may help to combat the side effects of medications and alleviate symptoms of the disease.
People with lupus have a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the general population. Limiting the amount of bad fats in your diet and choosing healthier fats can help to reduce that risk.
- 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.
- Replace bad fats with good fats. According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturatedand polyunsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated and trans fat in your diet. Examples include: olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil. Other sources include avocados, peanut butter and many nuts and seeds.
- Eat more fish. Aim to eat a 3-5 oz. serving of fish at least twice a week, especially fish containing omega- 3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, mackerel and herring.
Studies have found an increase in bone loss and fracture in individuals with lupus. Steroid medications often prescribed to treat lupus can also lead to bone loss. In addition, because of pain and fatigue caused by the disease, many patients with lupus become less active which further increases osteoporosis risk. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important for healthy bones.
- Calcium– Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich natural sources of calcium. Examples of non-dairy foods high in calcium are dark leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, spinach, collards and Chinese cabbage. Soy products such as tofu or soy milk are also good sources of calcium.
- Vitamin D- The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are the best sources of vitamin D. Many foods have also been fortified with vitamin D, such as, orange juice, soy milk, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
It’s never too late to start making changes to your diet and even just a few small changes each week can make a big difference in the long run!
Laura Gibofsky, MS, RD, CSP, CDN, is a nutritionist at Hospital for Special Surgery.