Ensure your meals are loaded with Omega-3 and antioxidants to keep your RA at bay.
With so many new medicines and medical devices on the market, you may sometimes lose sight of other remedies and treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis. What you put into your body can dramatically impact the effects of swelling and inflammation that RA sufferers regularly experience.
The nutrition behind the recipes
The best way to combat your pain is to treat it from the inside out. The first mode of attack? Nutrition. There are many beneficial foods that help reduce painful inflammation and encourage healthy blood flow.
Omega-3 fatty acids include three types of polyunsaturated fats: EPA, DHA, and ALA. EPA and DHA are primarily found in seafood and animal oils, while ALA is derived from plants, nuts, and seeds. To ensure you’re getting enough of all three types, you’ll want to have a healthy and diverse diet. All three types of Omega-3 fatty acids are key for assisting the body in regulating & reducing inflammation. To get the most beneficial fatty acids in your meal, eat your meals raw (excluding meats), cook them via dry baking/grilling, or lightly pan-fry them using flaxseed oil, walnut oil, olive oil, or low-erucic-acid rapeseed (canola) oil. Omega-3 Foods
Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fish: Mackerel, salmon, herring, sablefish (black cod), anchovy, whitefish, bluefin tuna, sardine, trout, halibut, bluefish (tailor/shad), swordfish, tilefish (blanquillo), bass, drum, pompano, shark, smelt, and carp.
- Shellfish: Oyster, mussel, squid, shrimp, and crab.
- Nuts/Seeds: Flaxseed, walnuts, butternuts (white walnuts), beechnuts, hickorynuts, pecans, pine nuts, breadfruit seeds, sesame seeds, tahini, and almonds.
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, whipped butter (made from cream), fontina cheese, roquefort cheese, and gruyere cheese.
- Meat: Lamb/sheep, veal, goat, and bison, which had grass and pasture-fed diets (not corn-fed).
- Grains/Pasta: Wheat germ, rice bran, quinoa, most granolas, and cereals made with wheat germ (which include Nature’s Path Optimum, Kellogg’s Special K Low Carb, and Kretschmer Honey Crunch Wheat Germ).
- Vegetables: Grape leaves, spirulina, red & green bell peppers, leeks, yellow onions, spinach, and edamame.
Antioxidants are also an important tool in the inflammation battle, because they curb oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs in the body, which produces free radicals that can cause damage to living cells, possibly killing them. Antioxidants “cling” to the free radicals and remove them, stopping the oxidation process and preventing the damage from happening. When cooking meals with antioxidants in mind, stick to lightly baking or steaming. Overcooking foods (primarily vegetables & fruits) may reduce the amount of antioxidants present in them.
The best sources for antioxidants include:
- Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes, cooked liver, carrots, kale, apricots, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, beet greens, swiss chard, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), squash, romaine lettuce, chicory, parsley, cantaloupe, bell peppers, tuna, sturgeon, mackerel, oysters, papaya, and mango.
- Vitamin C: Bell peppers, guavas, Acerola/Barbados cherries, kale, turnip greens, spinach, swiss chard, kiwis, oranges, lemons, clementines, grapefruits, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, green peas, papaya, mango, pineapple, canteloupe, red chili, and lychee.
- Vitamin E: Wheat Germ, chili powder, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, oregano, apricots, olives, tofu, spinach, avocados, shrimp, trout, and olive oil.
- Lutein/Zeaxanthin: Egg yolks, corn (cobs or un-dried kernels), orange bell peppers, kiwis, grapes, spinach, orange juice, zucchini, and squash.
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, sardines, ham, shrimp, bottom round beef steak, turkey, liver, chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, and brown rice.
- Beta-carotene: Chili powder, sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, romaine lettuce, parsley, squash, cress, cilantro, mustard greens, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, swiss chard, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), chicory, cantaloupe, bell peppers, apricots, green peas, and broccoli.
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, guava, watermelon, papaya, grapefruits, bell peppers, basil, liver, asparagus, red cabbage, carrots, and mango.
To ensure you’re getting enough of each, look for yellow, orange, red, and dark green vegetables/fruits, nuts, liver, and fish during your shopping trips. Dark chocolate (the darker the better), green tea, and red wine are also excellent sources.
What to Avoid
Knowing what to eat is the easy part, but knowing what not to eat is also part of the battle.
Be careful to avoid foods that are:
- Fried, processed, high in sodium, or loaded with preservatives. Instead, seek out raw/whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, and fish.
- High in sugar, refined flour, or simple carbohydrates. Opt for naturally-sweetened items and whole grains.
- Cooked with corn oil, safflower oil, or other vegetable oils (or eating meat derived from animals that were raised on a corn-fed diet). These will vastly increase your intake of Omega-6. (Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential parts of our diet, but Rheumatoid Arthritis patients should limit their intake of it, as most forms of it are linked to worsening the effects of inflammation and increasing sensitivity to pain.). Instead, cook your meals with olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, or canola oil.
If you change your diet to be proactive towards lessening your pain, with time, you should begin to notice your RA symptoms diminishing. As always, before starting this or any other diet, ask your doctor if it’s right for you.
For tips on Rheumatoid Arthritis Exercises, see: https://www.painresource.com/living-well/exercising-with-rheumatoid-arthritis/
- Mayo Clinic
- Nutrition Data on Self.com
- Study on Lutein/Zeaxanthin foods via NCBI
- National Institutes of Health factsheet