by Cody Kennedy
Many people with RA want to know how to eat better but are confused by the volume of nutritional advice out there. As rheumatoid arthritis has a large component of inflammation, following an anti-inflammatory diet is a great option that may bring relief. People generally underestimate how powerful a good diet can be.
Following this regime for 1-3 months will help reduce inflammation and combat fatigue.
Think of each meal as an opportunity to nourish and nurture your body.
Whenever possible, opt for food in its most natural state possible, which has been minimally processed. Try to stay away from packaged food and cook for yourself as much as you can. This also ensures you are minimising your intake of genetically modified foods.
If money permits, it is always better to go organic as this guarantees your food isn’t genetically modified.
Foods recommended are:
Nuts – if you can tolerate them
Grass-fed meat (grass-fed meat has a balanced ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, making it a healthier option)
Free range chicken – organic if possible
Livers and kidneys – only organic
Vegetables of all kinds
Healthy fats – olive oil, avocado, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds
Ghee (clarified butter)
Nutritive sugars - honey and maple syrup in small amounts
Eggs – free range
Fermented foods – sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha
Green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, bok choy, broccoli and dark green cabbage. Adding a squeeze of citrus to these vegetables turns the iron content into one our bodies can absorb more easily, a great tip if you are anaemic.
Oily fish – wild salmon, not farmed. Trout, kippers, mackerel, sardines
Foods to avoid are:
Soy sauce, tofu, tempeh and soy
All processed packaged foods
Grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, rice, quinoa, couscous, semolina, bulgar
Sweeteners such as stevia, rice malt syrup and molasses
Beans and legumes – including peanuts, kidney beans and chickpeas
Fizzy drinks – sparking mineral water is okay
Cooking oils such as sunflower, peanut, safflower, canola, vegetable oil
Avoiding all types of grains for a few months is a good option. Even gluten-free grains can cause inflammation and are hard to digest for some people.
Legumes should also be avoided; they contain a protein called lectin. Lectin can affect the gut and contribute to a lack of absorption of other nutrients.
Processed foods contain high levels of salt, sugar, artificial sugars, and preservatives, all of which will create inflammation. They are not very nutrient-dense, meaning they have a low nutritional content and are often higher in calories.
Sugar makes the blood sugar levels rise and drop rapidly, this can mean we suffer from swings in energy levels, and it can contribute to brain fog. It can also contribute to inflammation.
What should be on my plate each day?
For each meal of the day, it is vital to include a source of protein. This is of particular importance earlier in the day. Protein helps the body to maintain healthy blood glucose levels and prevents those swings in energy and brain fog. Good protein sources are eggs, fish, meat, and nuts.
As a general guide, each portion of meat you consume should be the same size and thickness as the palm of your hand.
You want to include vegetables at every meal.
Always try to create a colorful rainbow on your plate; go for as many different varieties of vegetables as you can. They all contain different antioxidants which will benefit your health.
Our final tip
Stick to the 80/20 rule.
Be good 80 percent of the time and don’t beat yourself up for being bad 20 percent of the time!
Cody Kennedy is a naturopath and nutritionist with over 10 years experience in the natural therapies industry. Her focus is on autoimmune diseases. For more information please visit her website.