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Inflammatory Relief on Your Plate: A Diet Guide for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Yiwen Lu, MS, RD
March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complex health issue where the body's defense system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. If you have RA, you might be dealing with stiffness, tenderness, swelling, and pain in the joints. Although the exact cause of RA is unknown, the cornerstone of its management involves medical care and dietary changes. There's no universal diet to cure RA, but directing attention to reducing inflammation can make a significant difference. In this article, we'll guide you on foods to increase in your diet and those to limit. Keep reading for two comprehensive lists—foods to embrace and foods to moderate!

Eat More:

  • Fatty Fish: Don't skimp on those healthy fats! Salmon, mackerel, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, try to eat them twice a week!
  • Colorful Fruits and Vegetables: Seriously, it's time to "Eat the rainbow!"
Rev up your immune system with berries, cherries, and leafy greens! They are packed with vibrant flavors and nutrients!
  • Whole Grains: Eat more brown rice, quinoa, and oats. They're not just your typical carbs. Linked to lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), they have great inflammation-fighting effects. Make sure these wholesome grains fill a quarter of your plate at each meal!
  • Nuts and Seeds: Dive into those nutty delights! Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Olive Oil: Elevate your dishes with extra virgin olive oil. It contains oleocanthal—a compound with anti-inflammatory effects. Drizzle it over salads or let it take the lead as your primary cooking oil.

Ginger and Turmeric: Here's to the superheroes of spices! Sprinkle ginger and turmeric for a burst of flavor and a health boost for your joints.

Eat Less:

  • Processed Foods: Give those packaged snacks, sugary cereals, and fast foods a pass. Despite their tempting marketing and flashy packaging, they're loaded with trans fats and refined sugars.
  • Red Meat: Enjoy lean cuts of red meat in moderation, but don't go overboard.
Eating too much red meat can cause inflammation. Try adding more fish, chicken, or plant-based proteins to your meals.
  • Dairy: If dairy doesn't sit well with you, it cause inflammation. Try other calcium sources like fortified plant-based milk or supplements. They might be gentler on your system.
  • Fried Foods: Greasy, deep-fried stuff? Nah, they often pack trans fats that can spark inflammation. Keep it light with baking, steaming, or sautéing instead.
  • Excessive Alcohol: Easy on the booze—it can stir up inflammation. When alcohol throws a party in your system, it generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), causing some stress that your cells and tissues might not appreciate. Plus, too much can mess with certain RA meds.


Incorporating a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can play a crucial role in managing RA. It's important to note, though, that responses to dietary changes differ among individuals. What's effective for one person may not have the same impact for another. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian is essential to customize dietary recommendations based on individual health needs and goals. If you have more questions, your Care Team is just one message away!

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