Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by inflammation, pain and damage to different joints of the body. Currently, there's no cure for rheumatoid arthritis. This disease severely impacts the quality of life with increased morbidity and reduced life expectancy. With dietary and lifestyle changes, you can reduce the symptoms of this disease or at least make them more manageable.

(Read more: Arthritis)

  1. Food to control rheumatoid arthritis
  2. Food for healthy bones
  3. Foods to avoid during rheumatoid arthritis
  4. Indian diet chart for rheumatoid arthritis
  5. Doctors for Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet and Diet Plan

Foods that reduce inflammation in the body have proven to help manage rheumatoid arthritis to an extent. The food that could help range from specific fish and oils to plants like ashwagandha. It is best to speak to your doctor before making any big changes in your diet. Following are some foods you may want to consider including in your regular diet:

Turmeric for rheumatoid arthritis

Turmeric is famous for its medicinal properties and commonly used in most parts of the world. It is well known for its anti-cancerous, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research studies have shown that taking turmeric can reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis such as inflammation of the joints and pain. You can consume this ingredient with milk, in tea and even capsule form. You can also add turmeric powder in your pickle, lentils, curry etc.

Fruits and vegetables for rheumatoid arthritis

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which help stabilize molecules called free radicals that can trigger inflammation and damage cells. They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals the body needs and polyphenols, all of which may help lower C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. For the wholesome benefits of this food group, try to have fresh, seasonal and whole fruits instead of packaged juices, jam or jelly.   

Add a colourful variety of fresh vegetables to get the most nutrients. Aim for 500-700 grams of fruits like dried plums, grapefruits, grapes, blueberries, pomegranate, mango, banana, peaches and apples and 700-800 grams of vegetables like pumpkin, carrot, beetroot, tomato, broccoli, lady finger and brinjal daily.

Fatty fish for rheumatoid arthritis

Rawas (Indian salmon), bangda (Indian mackerel), surmai (king mackerel) and other cold-water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps control inflammation. Your body needs a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Researchers have shown that a greater ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is associated with an increase in chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. So it’s important to increase omega-3 consumption while reducing omega-6 consumption, which may provoke inflammation and is found in meats, certain oils and fried and processed foods that contain those oils.

(Read more: Best fish to eat in India)

Whole grains for rheumatoid arthritis

Pearl millet, oats, sorghum, whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains may lower levels of CRP and reduce the risk of heart disease, which is elevated in people with RA. Whole grains are higher in nutrients and fiber than refined grains. Many products with refined grains contain ingredients that are not good for your health, such as added sugars and saturated fats and very less amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Read labels and choose breads, cereals and other products that specifically say they’re whole grain and fortified with nutrients.

Legumes for rheumatoid arthritis

People with rheumatoid arthritis are prone to muscle loss. Pulses and legumes are a good source of protein, which is important for muscle health. This food group is fat free and contains antioxidants. Some legumes are rich in folic acid, magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium, all known for their heart and immune-system benefits. To add this group, you can have pigeon pea, green gram, horse gram, red kidney beans and black-eyed peas.

Nuts and seeds for rheumatoid arthritis

Nuts and seeds are a great source of monounsaturated fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids. They are known for their heart-protective properties. Try including almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in your diet. Walnuts and ground flaxseed are particularly good for people with rheumatoid arthritis because they're a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. Don’t go overboard with nuts as, while they contain healthy fats, they are also high in calories.

Olive oil for rheumatoid arthritis

Olive oil is a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat and it contains a compound called oleocanthal, which reduces inflammation and acts like ibuprofen in alleviating pain. Consume it in moderation though as, like all other oils, it’s a fat that can lead to weight gain. Include it, along with other healthy oils, in your diet to manage symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Probiotic foods for rheumatoid arthritis

Some research studies have shown people with rheumatoid arthritis have observed that probiotics and prebiotic-rich foods may be useful in helping control gastrointestinal symptoms associated with RA. To include these nutrients in your diet, consume fermented foods (idli, dosa, curd and buttermilk) and fiber-rich food (whole grain, leafy vegetables, fruits) on a regular basis.

Cod liver oil for rheumatoid arthritis

There are studies that show that cod liver oil helps suppress symptoms such as joint pain, joint stiffness and swelling. A study, in which 43 people took a cod liver oil capsule daily for three months, found that it improves symptoms such as morning stiffness, pain and swelling in the body. Omega-3, which is found in cod liver oil, helps reduce inflammation and internal swelling, which protects against damage. You can have one teaspoon of liquid cod liver oil daily or speak to your doctor about taking the capsule.

Ashwagandha for rheumatoid arthritis

Ashwagandha is one of the plants being described in Ayurveda as a potent anti-inflammatory plant. Research conducted on the plant has shown a significant reduction in stiffness, disability to move knee and joints and pain score in rheumatoid arthritis.

(Read more: Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for body pain)

It is important that everyone get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diet to ensure that their bones stay strong and healthy. This is an even greater consideration when you have RA and use glucocorticoids as part of the treatment as it may put you at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. To make and keep your bone healthy and strong, add milk, dairy products, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, cod liver oil and mushrooms in your diet.

There are few food options which increase inflammation in the body and worsen the symptoms of this disease. To avoid these foods, cut down fried foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, alcohol and excessive salt.

Following is a sample of what your daily diet plan should look like if you have rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Early Morning: Milk (1 cup) + walnuts (4-6)
  • Breakfast: Methi paratha (2) + curd (1 bowl) + papaya (1 small bowl)
  • Mid Meal: Apple (1 small sized)
  • Lunch: Chapati (2)/ brown rice (1 bowl) + toor dal / cucumber raita (1 bowl) + bottle gourd curry (1 bowl) + grated salad (1 bowl)
  • Evening Tea: Turmeric Tea (1 cup) + roasted makhana (1 bowl) / boiled egg (1)
  • Dinner: Vegetable soup (1 big bowl) + chapati (2) + paneer curry (6-7 pieces) / fish curry (1-2 piece)
  • Bedtime: Turmeric milk (1 glass)
Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Nutritionist
20 Years of Experience

Dr. priyamwada

Dr. priyamwada

Nutritionist
7 Years of Experience

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