Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About myRAteam

Best Foods for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted on April 06, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

Recent research in rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease, shows that what you eat may help make you feel better. Some people with RA find that what they eat has a big impact on their symptoms. Others find that eating a healthy diet provides added benefits, like having more energy.

Ultimately, everyone is different and has unique dietary needs and preferences. Some foods are particularly beneficial to people with RA, namely those that comprise a Mediterranean diet or another anti-inflammatory diet. Here, we explore some of the best foods to support your body while living with RA. Keep in mind that these foods cannot cure or treat rheumatoid arthritis — but they may help manage symptoms alongside your prescribed medications and treatments.

Foods With Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are several different kinds of fatty acids. Your body needs all of them, but in the proper ratios. Research shows that people who have a higher ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids are more likely to be diagnosed with inflammatory conditions like RA.

You can raise the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by eating fish like tuna, mackerel, herring, salmon, or sardines. If you don’t like fish, omega-3 supplements (also called fish oil supplements) are available. Make sure to work with your doctor before taking a fish oil supplement, as these supplements can have other side effects and interact with some medications. Make sure to get the most out of your supplementation without harming your body.

Some myRAteam members report that getting more omega-3 fatty acids has helped improve their RA symptoms. As one member wrote, “My flares were bad, but I have been taking omega-3 and vitamin D, and they seem to be helping.”

Whole Grains

Whole grains, like whole wheat, quinoa, oats, and brown rice have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Whole grains may also help lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, reducing inflammation and potentially improving RA symptoms. The level of CRP in the blood increases when there is inflammation in the body. People diagnosed with RA often have high CRP levels, which some people report causes more joint pain and other worsened symptoms.

Green Tea

Green tea seems to help some people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis feel better, research shows. Researchers propose that this effect is because the tea is full of antioxidants, which help improve the function of your immune system. Green tea may also have anti-inflammatory effects.

Legumes

The legume family includes peas, beans, and peanuts. Like green tea, legumes contain antioxidants that can help improve your immune system and decrease inflammation. They also contain protein, which helps you maintain muscle mass.

Legumes also contain an abundance of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, and iron, that help your heart and immune system function. The Arthritis Foundation recommends choosing black beans, garbanzo beans, or black-eyed peas.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are part of any healthy diet, but they can be especially helpful for people diagnosed with RA. Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of fiber, which may help reduce inflammation, as well as antioxidants and compounds that can lower your CRP levels.

To maximize the benefit of fruits and veggies in your diet, eat a variety of colors each day to get the most nutrients.

Olive Oil

Extra-virgin or virgin olive oil may be helpful for people with RA because these are categorized as monounsaturated fats (healthy fats that protect your heart and lower your risk of heart disease). Olive oil also contains oleocanthal, a substance that helps reduce inflammation and may even act as a pain reliever.

Keep in mind that you shouldn't consume too much olive oil. It is high in fat and calories, and excessive consumption could cause other problems such as weight gain, which can aggravate symptoms.

Nuts

Like olive oil, nuts also contain monounsaturated fats. Walnuts, in particular, contain compounds that help reduce inflammation and can be hard to find in other foods.

Turmeric and Ginger

Turmeric and ginger may be two of the most powerful spices for relieving RA symptoms. Early research suggests they may help the immune system by reducing the number of cytokines in the body, which can cause inflammation. They may also help reduce something called oxidative stress, helping the body better fight off any foreign invaders.

Some myRAteam members find that turmeric and ginger help them feel better. As one member wrote, “I have used turmeric in different things, and I feel like it helps.” Another shared, “My inflammation seems to be high today. So, I shall drink my turmeric and ginger tea, and the inflammation will be down by this afternoon.”

Try the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet includes many of the foods mentioned above. It focuses mainly on fish, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts. It also incorporates a lot of olive oil. Because these foods are recommended for people with RA, switching to the Mediterranean diet may be an easy way of eating right with the disease.

Some of our members have tried the Mediterranean diet and found that it helps their RA symptoms. As one wrote, “I have been experiencing more energy since I started on the Mediterranean diet.”

Find Your Dietary Triggers

Certain foods will cause RA flare-ups in some people but not in others. If you think that a certain type of food might be making your rheumatoid arthritis worse, try an elimination diet with guidance from a doctor or nutritionist to determine what triggers your symptoms.

Once you’ve identified your trigger foods, you can avoid them. Working with a dietitian or nutritionist may also help you eat a healthy diet while avoiding foods that exacerbate your symptoms.

Get Support Today

Navigating life with RA can be a challenge. The good news? You don’t have to go it alone. Join myRAteam, the social network for people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and their loved ones. Here, more than 147,000 members from across the world come together to ask questions, offer support and advice, and share stories of life with RA.

What foods have you found the most helpful in managing your RA symptoms? Share your thoughts in the comments below or by posting on myRAteam.

References

  1. Foods That Can Help RA Symptoms — Arthritis Foundation
  2. Best Fish for Arthritis — Arthritis Foundation
  3. Nutrition & Rheumatoid Arthritis — Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center
  4. C-Reactive Protein Test — Mayo Clinic
  5. Green Tea and Exercise Interventions as Nondrug Remedies in Geriatric Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis — Journal of Physical Therapy Science
  6. Anti-Inflammatory: What Foods Should You Avoid with Rheumatoid Arthritis? — Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network
  7. Can Increasing Fiber Reduce Inflammation? — Arthritis Foundation
  8. Virgin Olive Oil and Health: Summary of the III International Conference on Virgin Olive Oil and Health Consensus Report, JAEN (Spain) 2018 — Nutrients
  9. Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis With Dietary Interventions — Frontiers in Nutrition
  10. 6 Simple Diet Lessons from Nutritionists With Rheumatoid Arthritis — CreakyJoints
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Sarah Winfrey is a copywriter at MyHealthTeams. Learn more about her here.

Recent articles

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body attacks its tissues, leading...

Understanding Vitamin D Levels and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body attacks its tissues, leading...
Many individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) look for natural ways to help manage their...

Supplements for RA: What To Take and What To Avoid

Many individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) look for natural ways to help manage their...
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis known for causing joint symptoms,...

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Peripheral Neuropathy

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis known for causing joint symptoms,...
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) tends to affect small joints first, particularly the joints of the...

Hand Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) tends to affect small joints first, particularly the joints of the...
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that leads to joint inflammation,...

Rheumatoid Arthritis Stages and Progression

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that leads to joint inflammation,...
It’s normal enough to wake up achy the day after a difficult workout or a long day of work. But...

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Managing Morning Stiffness

It’s normal enough to wake up achy the day after a difficult workout or a long day of work. But...
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting the joints. Antirheumatic...

Stem Cell Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis: What We Know

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting the joints. Antirheumatic...
Baker’s cysts (also known as Baker cysts or popliteal cysts) are very common in people with...

Managing Baker's Cysts in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Baker’s cysts (also known as Baker cysts or popliteal cysts) are very common in people with...
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (RA), also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis or JIA, is a...

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis: Symptoms and Treatment

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (RA), also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis or JIA, is a...
Telemedicine is the use of two-way communication technology to provide health care.More people...

Access Your Doctor Without Leaving Your Home

Telemedicine is the use of two-way communication technology to provide health care.More people...
myRAteam My rheumatoid arthritis Team

Two Ways to Get Started with myRAteam

Become a Member

Connect with others who are living with rheumatoid arthritis. Get members only access to emotional support, advice, treatment insights, and more.

sign up

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest articles about rheumatoid arthritis sent to your inbox.

Not now, thanks

Privacy policy
myRAteam My rheumatoid arthritis Team

Thank you for signing up.

close