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Are These 5 Foods in Your Daily Diet? Try to Avoid Them When You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes painful swelling, usually in the joints of the body. In addition to causing pain, this inflammation can also cause potential damage to joint tissue as well as other issues[i].

While doctors are not quite sure what causes the autoimmune response[ii], what is known is that certain environmental factors can trigger or worsen the disease. One of these factors is the foods you eat. Certain foods can cause inflammation and exacerbate rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

When people talk about using food as medicine, they mean not only making good choices but also avoiding foods that could cause you trouble.

Here are five foods that you’ll want to stay away from if you have rheumatoid arthritis and some alternatives that are better for your health. Remember, choosing what not to eat is as important as choosing the healthy options.



1. Red Meat

Red meat is obviously a popular part of many recipes and it’s commonly eaten by most people quite regularly. However, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you’ll want to limit how often you eat red meat. That’s because red meat is high in saturated fat, which causes inflammation[iii].

In addition, a study found that “a higher amount of processed meat intake was associated with increased odds” of rheumatoid arthritis[iv]. While this isn’t specific to red meat, it shows that the type of meat you eat has an effect on your overall health and rheumatoid arthritis specifically.


Red Meat Alternatives for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

The same study mentioned above also found that “higher fish and seafood intake might be associated with a decreased risk of RA” which shows that fish and seafood are good alternatives to red meat.

In addition to providing protein, some fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring, etc.) are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and may help improve the feeling of softness and swelling of the joints[v].

The general recommendation for adults is to consume 15–30 grams of protein at each meal[vi]. While many people equate eating protein with eating meat, meat isn’t the only way to get enough protein in your diet. For instance, eating a banana, some Greek yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg will get you 19 grams of protein on average, which is a good amount for a single meal[vii].

If you do choose to eat meat, know that red meat isn’t the only option. In addition to fish, chicken is a good choice as well, especially if it isn’t fried or battered. A 3-ounce chicken breast with a half-cup rice and a half-cup of vegetables amounts to 25 grams of protein.


2. Sugar and Refined Flour

Sugar and refined flour are found in many baked goods and several other recipes as well. However, refined carbohydrates can cause blood sugar spikes, and this can lead to inflammation[viii].

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to eliminate pastries and other baked goods from your diet entirely. These foods are often a big part of celebrations and milestones, so avoiding them completely can be tough and even demoralizing. The good news is that there are alternatives available.


Sugar and Refined Flour Alternatives for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first option is to eat smaller portions of sugary foods. You can often get the same experience and taste from having a small amount of a treat than you get from eating a larger portion.

Another option is to consider different ingredients in your baking and cooking. Rather than refined flours, consider some of these alternatives:

· Millet, gluten free: Millet works well as an alternative to refined flour in many recipes, such as bread and muffin recipes.

· Brown rice, gluten free: White rice is more refined than brown rice and that can cause issues for those with rheumatoid arthritis. Brown rice, on the other hand, has not had its bran and germ stripped during processing. This means that not only is it more nutrient-rich, but it also helps lower blood sugar levels[ix]. Use it as a replacement in any recipe that calls for white rice but allow for a longer cooking time.

· Quinoa, gluten free: Quinoa is a versatile, high-protein seed that functions is an ideal grain substitute. It is often used as an alternative to rice. Not only is it high in protein, but there is research that suggests that it might suppress the release of pro-inflammatory proteins in the body called cytokines. This may be helpful in preventing inflammation[x].


3. Foods High in AGEs

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) exist naturally in uncooked animal foods, but they are formed through certain cooking methods. For instance, roasting or broiling at high cooking temperatures can cause chemical reactions between groups of amino acids in proteins and carbonyl groups of reducing sugars, which results in the formation of AGEs.

AGEs play a significant role in the rheumatoid arthritis process[xi]. High levels of AGEs have been linked to inflammation[xii], which can worsen rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, you should limit your intake of food that are high in AGEs, such as high protein, high fat animal foods that are fried, roasted, grilled, seared, or broiled, including:

· Bacon

· Roasted or fried chicken

· Pan-fried or grilled steak

· French fries

· American cheese

· Broiled hot dogs

· Margarine

· Mayonnaise


Alternatives for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

One of the most important alternatives for those with rheumatoid arthritis is how certain foods are prepared. Since AGEs form during certain cooking methods, you will want to avoid using these methods.

Instead, try steaming, stewing, boiling, or blanching instead of frying, broiling, or roasting.


4. Dairy

Dairy is rich in calcium, which can help with bone strength. However, there are studies that show dairy can also cause tissue irritation within your joints. In addition, it contains casein, which may contribute to inflammation[xiii].


Dairy Alternatives for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cutting back on dairy can be helpful if you are dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. However, if you do, it is important that you eat other foods that contain the same nutrients you would have typically gotten from dairy.

There are several other good sources of calcium, for instance, including kale, collard greens, soybeans, chickpeas, and almonds. You can also choose calcium-fortified juices as well as non-dairy milks (such as soy, almond, hemp, rice).


5. Foods High in Salt

Eating a lot of salt can affects the immune system and result in inflammation[xiv].

Many foods are much higher in salt than you would have expected. Common high-salt foods include shrimp, pizza, certain cheeses, processed meats, canned soup, and many other processed items.


Alternatives for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Making changes to your day-to-day lifestyle, how you prepare your foods, and the foods that you choose can reduce the amount of salt you consume.

For instance, use fresh, rather than packaged, meats when possible. While fresh cuts of beef, chicken or pork do contain natural sodium, it is significantly less than the extra sodium added to processed products like bacon or ham[xv].

Fruits and vegetables are often very low in sodium. While fresh options are an obvious choice, it’s important to know that most canned and frozen fruits are also low in sodium.

However, reading labels is important. Sodium content is always listed on the nutrition label. You might find that some foods have much more sodium than you would have expected.

By using food as medicine and recognizing that choosing what not to eat is as important as choosing the healthy options, you can make the right decisions in your diet and live a healthier and happier life.


[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/rheumatoid-arthritis.html [ii] Mayo Clinic. “Rheumatoid arthritis” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648 [iii] Cleveland Clinic. “5 Foods That Can Cause Inflammation” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-foods-that-can-cause-inflammation/ [iv] BioMed Central Nutrition Journal. “The relationship between animal flesh foods consumption and rheumatoid arthritis: a case-control study”. Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-022-00800-1 [v] Healthline. “Treating Arthritis with Fish Oil and Omega-3s (EPA and DHA).” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/arthritis-fish-oil-omega-3 [vi] Mayo Clinic. “Assessing protein needs for performance” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/assessing-protein-needs-for-performance [vii] Mayo Clinic “Are you getting too much protein?” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/are-you-getting-too-much-protein [viii] Everlywell. “Foods that cause inflammation: what you need to know” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.everlywell.com/blog/inflammation/foods-that-cause-inflammation/ [ix] Healthline. “Brown Vs. White Rice —Is One Better for Your Health?” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/brown-vs-white-rice [x] Arthritis Foundation. “Best Grains for Arthritis” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-grains-for-arthritis [xi]National Library of Medicine. “Nitroxidized-Albumin Advanced Glycation End Product and Rheumatoid Arthritis” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6974383/ [xii] Healthline. “What Are Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)?” Retrieved 20 September 2023. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/advanced-glycation-end-products [xiii] Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut. “8 Inflammation-Causing Foods to Avoid When You Have Arthritis” Retrieved 21 September 2023. https://www.allergyinstitute.org/blog/8-inflammation-causing-foods-to-avoid-when-you-have-arthritis [xiv] Intake Health. “Salt and Inflammation: Understanding Anti-Inflammatory Diets” Retrieved 21 September 2023. https://www.intake.health/post/salt-and-inflammation-understanding-anti-inflammatory-diets [xv] Livestrong. “Sodium Content of Meat Products” Retrieved 21 September 2023. https://www.livestrong.com/article/370613-sodium-content-of-meat-products/

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