Much controversy exists about whether the foods you eat or do not eat affect symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. No evidence has shown particular foods will stop rheumatoid arthritis from getting worse. However, some studies have shown short term improvement in symptoms with certain foods. These foods may be described as "anti-inflammatory."
Let's first talk about inflammation. Acute inflammation is a good thing because it protects and heals the body after injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the body's healthy cells, leading to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. There is evidence to support certain foods, including those with omega-3 fatty acids, can suppress inflammation, but its unclear how often and how much is needed to be beneficial. Regardless, these healthy fats are good for everyone to get in their diets.
Get your omega-3's from fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna. Walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil are also good sources of these fats. Likewise, reduce the fats that may increase inflammation, such as saturated and trans fats; fatty red meats, butter, fried foods and processed foods made with hydrogenated oils should be carefully avoided. Instead, let fruits and vegetables take up half your plate. Make at least half your grains whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown and wild rice, barley and whole wheat pasta. With these changes, you are on your way to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Tuna Apple Salad Sandwich
1 apple, chopped
2 Tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
½ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 can 12-oz. chunk light tuna, drained
8 leaves lettuce
8 slices whole-grain bread
In a medium size bowl, mix first 8 ingredients. Gently fold in tuna. Fill 2 slices of bread with apple salad mixture and top with lettuce leaf.
Yield: 4 servings
Source: USDA What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl
Nutritional analysis per serving: 380 Calories, 10 grams fat, 550 milligrams sodium, 48 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams dietary fiber, 27 grams protein
Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.