Let These 16 Foods That Help Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Thy Medicine


There are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods that help Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers. But are you aware of which ones they are? You can certainly eliminate some of the painful symptoms of RA by incorporating foods that may not be very popular in the Standard American Diet (SAD).

We’re not going to tackle ALL the foods that are good for Rheumatoid Arthritis, but in this post we will dig in deep into an anti-inflammatory diet and examine the 16 top foods that can easily help you reduce inflammation and keep your RA in check.

Introduction- Inflammation Means More Pain

In a previous post, we discussed the early signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis and how to evaluate whether or not you’re at a hereditary risk for developing RA.

Is rheumatoid arthritis hereditaryAs you know, Rheumatoid Arthritis is derived from arthritis, which is an inflammatory disease.

RA is a joint disease that affects both sides of the body. This symmetry makes it unique and different from other RA types.

In certain cases, RA can wreak havoc on the eyes, the heart, the skin, the nerves, the lungs, and the nerves.

It can make joints very achy and may prevent someone from being able to move easily and lift objects without pain. This is when people usually turn to medicine and to products that help them ease their arthritis pain.

Food and an anti-inflammatory diet may also help. Let’s dig in deeper into the topic.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” (Hippocrates)

Foods To Eat For Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Diet For RA

Take a look at the inflammatory food chart below with foods that help Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers.

Inflammatory-Food-Chart-PinIn contrast, if you want to find out the foods to avoid while you have RA, you can read our post title Foods To Avoid With Arthritis (Worst Foods For Arthritis).

Be sure to consult with your doctor if you have any question about the proper dosage of these nutrients and vitamins, and if you even need them.

1. Foods rich in Omega 3. Sardines would be a great example. If you don’t like sardines, consider adding foods that are rich in omega 3 to your diet, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, and albacore tuna.

Some people respond positively to fish oil supplements. The active ingredients in these fish oil supplements are omega-3 fatty acids. This was confirmed by a recent study on inflammation and autoimmune disease published at the National institute of Health. It stated the following: “Many of the placebo-controlled trials of fish oil in chronic inflammatory diseases reveal significant benefit, including decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs.”

One (1) teaspoon of cod liver oil, Rich with Omega-3 fatty acids, may help alleviate the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Sardines. This is one of the best foods good for RA and probably one of the world’s healthiest foods. 

In the U.S., sardines are not regarded with the highest affection, but in many parts of the world, and especially in the Mediterranean area, sardines are loved and cherished.

Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12 and selenium. They are a very good source of phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and protein. Additionally, they are a good source of calcium, niacin, copper, vitamin B2, and choline. You can always choose sardines with water instead of oil.

When they’re not available, fish in general will do.

People in the Mediterranean region (the Levant specifically, and Lebanon particularly) love to have them baked to crispiness and served with simply a dash of salt and a lot of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add to that some Tahini sauce (called Tarator, which is a slight variation of tartar sauce), a Humus dip (chickpeas dip with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil), and Baba Ghanouj (eggplant dip with also lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil) on the side, and you have a fantastic anti-inflammatory meal.

Eat fish! Fish has excellent mood lifting nutrients like omega-3!

2. Green vegetables. Greens are great foods to eat for Rheumatoid Arthritis. You can strengthen you immune system by adding green vegetables such as parsley, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, and Brussels sprouts.

These are great foods to eat with RA. They have vitamins A, C, K, and are packed with antioxidants which will protect your cells from free-radicals.

3. Avocados. This fruit is sometimes called alligator pear. It totally looks and tastes like a vegetable. Avocados have anti-inflammatory characteristics and are rich in monounsaturated fats. Check out our post on the amazing health benefits of Avocados. They are a good source of fiber and have good monounsaturated fats, while being low on the glycemic index.

4. Foods that are rich in beta-carotene. Add these colorful foods to the list of foods to fight Rheumatoid Arthritis.squash

These are usually foods that are naturally yellow or orange, such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mango, apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkin, and butternut squash. Beta-carotene either protects cells directly, or turns into vitamin A (retinol). 

5. Flax seeds. Flax seeds are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids that fight inflammation. If you don’t like flax seeds in your food (they can be a bit nutty, bur with a negligible taste), you can try Flax Seeds Capsules (they are usually available in 1,000, or 1,300 mg dosage).

To get the best out of this nutrient, don’t buy the already grounded type.

Flax seeds may lose some of their potency if not used right away after grinding them. To eliminate this issue, buy the whole seeds Flax seeds and grind them in an electric coffee grinder. Keep them in a cool place until you’re ready to grind them. Grind 1-3 tablespoons at various times during the day and add them to your soups or salads.

6. Chia seeds. Chia seeds are a great anti-inflammatory food. Make sure that you buy good seeds that are pesticides-free. Add a bit of water to 1 tablespoon of Chia seeds and let the mixture sit until the seeds absorb the water. You can also moisten them with edible liquids.

Once they are moist, you can them eat them or add them to foods or drinks. They are delicious and they also have fiber, protein, minerals, and antioxidants.

7. If you MSUT eat red meat, then choose grass fed meats instead of processed meats. Some argue against meat in general. For RA, we MUST differentiate between the kinds of meats that people consume.

You absolutely positively have to avoid processed meats at all cost. This means no pepperoni, cold cuts, deli meats, hot dogs, mortadella, Bologna sausage, or bacon.

So, if you must have meat, switch to grass fed meats that have some better quality nutrients. The benefits are noted in the book “The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body“.

Now, you don’t have to adopt a paleo diet (high protein, medium fats, low carbs) if you don’t want to, but at least choose your meat wisely. If you continue to feel your joints flare up right after eating grass fed meat, then you probably have gout, when your body forms too much uric acid in the joints, causing pain.

Grass fed meat has vitamin K2, and vitamin K2 has been proven to be effective in reducing RA’s symptoms. So, if you choose to not eat meat all together, then you may want to research and consider getting vitamin K2 (Mk7) in supplement form.

One caveat… If you can’t get a solid 15 minutes of sunshine daily, you may want to add vitamin D3 to your K2. This will help in moving calcium in your body and it will also help its absorption in the bones.

8. Vitamin D3. A lot of people are prone to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D3 (a form of vitamin D) reduces autoimmune disease symptoms. It complements vitamin K2 as they both work hand in hand to help calcium move to the proper areas of the body.

Too much of vitamins D and A can be toxic in large amounts, so have a conversation with your physician on whether or not you need to add these nutrients.

9. Vitamin C. A recent study on the effects of vitamin C on people who are in constant pain concluded that vitamin C can have a positive effect for people with RA. It helps in alleviating the pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis (more so than Osteoarthritis) and providing the sufferer with a better quality of life.

10. Green tea. Green tea and Rheumatoid Arthritis make so much sense together. This is thanks to the anti-inflammatory tea effects found specifically in green tea.

Green tea has been proven to fight inflammation in the body thanks to its compound called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). We have written extensively on green tea in the post titled 17 Health Benefits Of Green Tea (And The Studies Behind Them). If you prefer, you can drink Matcha tea.

Try to incorporate about 2 cups of green tea per day with a bit of lemon juice to your daily diet.

11. Reishi Mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum). Reishi mushrooms are among the foods that are good for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Reishi mushroomsThese mushrooms are sometimes referred to as the mushrooms of immortality and many studies have shown their benefits. These specific mushrooms are unique and rare. They have been used as medicine in China for close to 4000 years. They can improve health, aid the immune system, and help fight diseases.

Since they are rare, you can get them as Reishi mushroom tea (the tea may have a unique taste, but don’t let the taste take away from the amazing effects it can produce – this is medicine), or in the form of Reishi capsules.

12. Onions. Onions can help inflammation in the body thanks to a substance called quercetin. Unfortunately, it can also help fight the presence of people around you who don’t want to smell your breath. 

13. Garlic. Just like onions, garlic can also deter people from wanting to be around you (perhaps in a bigger way), and Dracula hated it and so do some people! Garlic is, however, delicious, and it has magical sulfur compounds that fight diseases and stimulate the immune system.

Try mincing a clove of garlic, adding a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix with any steamed vegetable. You will definitely want more.

14. Olive oil. It has a substance called oleocanthal which may prevent inflammation. You can make a delicious salad dressing using olive oil.

15. Probiotics or fermented foods. These are foods that will help your gut. Probiotics have live organisms and yeasts that can help improve your immune system. They can keep your gut flora functioning well by destroying bad bacteria and improving healthy ones that are needed for good digestion.

Whether you consume probiotic in food or supplement form, or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt with live culture, and Kefir, make sure to look into adding this important nutrient to your diet.

16. Anti-inflammatory spices. See list below.

These Are Good Spices For RA (Anti-Inflammatory Spices You Can Use Today)

spicesSpices are an amazing addition to any foods and can make anything taste great.

They can be in the group of foods that help Rheumatoid Arthritis pain by reducing inflammation. They have nutrients and they can spice up any dish with succulent and exotic tastes. You can cook with them or add them to foods or drinks. Here is what these spices may help with:

  • Coriander. Coriander has anti-inflammatory effects. It may lower your blood sugar, help you with digestive issues, fight food poisoning, help reduce blood pressure, help with urinary tract infections, and will support female hormones during PMS. 
  • Black Pepper. Black pepper is a great helper when it comes to digesting foods properly. It helps you avoid gas, and it promotes intestinal health.
  • Ginger. Ginger can be consumed pickled, fresh, or dried. It can also give a great taste to your tea when added fresh. It helps with pain, nausea, and motion sickness. 
  • Turmeric. It is no longer a secret that Turmeric has amazing healing benefits including natural anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Cinnamon. It really depends which studies you read on cinnamon. Some found no effects (but that study was done on blood sugar and cinnamon and found no positive effects), and others found amazing effects, including fighting inflammation, fighting bacteria, lowering blood pressure, and having antioxidant effects.

As long as some benefits are found, it is safe to say that this spice can have a positive health effect.

  • Cayenne Pepper (topical usage is best for RA). When a topical compound with cayenne is applied to the skin, the substance capsaicin reacts to the skin and depletes another pain substance called substance P. This substance normally carries pain signals all the way to the brain, but with cayenne around, it will cease or reduce the operation. Eating Cayenne can be good for general health as well, as it will help the digestive system among many other benefits, but for RA, it is most effective as a topical rub.
  • Dried Za’atar. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb that many consider as the hyssop of the Bible. It’s eaten as a salad when it’s freshly picked (with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, sumac, salt, and white onion wedges – A delicious accompaniment to any grilled dish).Za’atar is also dried out, mixed with sumac, and with roasted sesame seeds. It can be placed on top of food items (such as humus).

RELATED: 25 Perfect Gifts For People With Arthritis.

Example Meals That Can Reduce Inflammation

Here are some examples of anti-inflammatory recipes:

(a) A drink, Japanese style – Green tea or Matcha tea 2 hours before your meal.

If you’ve read one of our posts on when to drink green tea, you know NOT to drink it with food. This is because it can stop the iron absorbency from the foods you eat. So, drink your Matcha tea or green tea 2 hours before or after your meal.

  • Wait the 2 hours, so that you help your body absorb all the nutrients, including iron.
  • Drink 1 cup of green tea or Matcha tea 2 hours before your meal.
  • Drink 1 cup 2 hours after your meal.

(b) Sardines, Mediterranean style.

  • A can of sardines, drained. Add mashed garlic, lemon juice, and salt (or make the Mediterranean olive oil salad dressing – See below).
  • You can always use other types of fish if you absolutely positively hate sardines.

(c) Side #1: Anti-inflammatory butter squash soup.

  • Microwave for 3-5 minute 1 diced butternut squash and 2 diced carrots.
  • Chop 1 white onion.
  • Mince 2 cloves of garlic.
  • In a pot, add 2 tablespoon of coconut oil and sauté the onions and the garlic until they start turning yellow.
  • Add 1 liter of vegetable stock of your choice.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric spice.
  • Add 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced.
  • Add 1 cup of chopped Swiss chard (you can use kale if you can’t find Swiss chard).
  • Add 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts.
  • Add the microwaved carrots and butternut squash.
  • Stir all ingredients and let the mix come to a boil, then reduce heat for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let the mix cool.
  • Use a handheld blender to mix all ingredients together. If the ingredients are too thick, add a bit more of hot vegetable stock to make the consistency of a soup.
  • Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper to taste and enjoy.

(d) Side #2: A side vegetable.

  • 1 cup of steamed broccoli.
  • Grind 1 tablespoon of flax seeds and add on top.
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the broccoli.
  • Add some black pepper to taste.
  • Add some salt to taste.

(e) Side #3: A small salad.

  • 1/2 cup Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup spinach.
  • 1/2 Avocado.
  • Mix with olive oil dressing, Mediterranean style (see below).

A typical Lebanese meal (naturally anti-inflammatory) - Tabbouleh, Fish with tarator sauce, eggplant dip, humus dip
A typical Lebanese meal that was served to us during one of my visits- Tabbouleh, fish with tahineh sauce, eggplant dip, humus dip

(f) Delicious olive oil dressing, Mediterranean style.

  • Crush a small clove of garlic and add it to a small bowl.
  • Add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or to taste).
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper (optional).
  • Whisk the oil, lemon juice, and garlic with the salt and pepper.
  • Mix the ingredients with the salad and serve.

Final Thoughts On The Rheumatoid Diet Food List

Arthritis can be uncomfortable, but it can also be manageable.

You can help reduce inflammation in your body by adding the right foods and nutrients to your diet.

Add essential nutrients to your diet by eating foods that have life in them, such as leafy greens, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, avocados, green tea, and anti-inflammatory spices that can be a great addition to your daily routine.

Try to stay Zen and learn to avoid stress while keeping a positive outlook on life.

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis is not the end of the world. You can have a very fulfilled and symptoms-free life when you take care of your health and your wellness.

Be well.

READ MORE: 23 Perfect Stress Relief Gifts For Stressed Out People.