People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are constantly seeking to ease its symptoms with food and dietary supplements. While researchers have turned up no magic to cure RA, there is a connection between certain foods and the inflammation that characterizes this autoimmune condition. Before embarking on a special diet or taking supplements, though, consult your doctor.
Foods That Help Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis
Coriander. This green, leafy herb goes by different names — coriander, cilantro, Chinese parsley — and it’s a staple in multiple cuisines like Mexican and Thai. Some say it helps make their RA symptoms better. Coriander was among the many nutraceuticals (food extracts) that can have a beneficial effect on chronic inflammatory diseases such as RA.
Turmeric. Turmeric is a deep mustard-yellow spice from Asia. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation. Mustard is a good source of turmeric and probably the easiest way to get it. A research review published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in August 2016 found a small number of studies that support the benefit of turmeric in the treatment of arthritis. However, the researchers say that more studies are needed.
Ginger. Ginger has long been recognized for its ability to calm the stomach. Like turmeric, ginger also contains chemicals that may work to help improve RA symptoms.
Blackstrap molasses. Many people with RA swear by blackstrap molasses and have for years, but the scientific research is limited. One reason some suspect molasses may help relieve pain is that it’s rich in vitamins and nutrients, including magnesium. Magnesium helps preserve nerve and muscle function as well as joint cartilage. What's more, low levels of magnesium, as well as calcium, are more common in people with RA. Other good vegetable sources of magnesium are nuts, beans, whole grains, bananas, green vegetables, and dairy products. Olive oil also delivers the nutrient.
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Green tea. A cup of green tea a day may keep the joint pain away. Green tea has antioxidant properties, which are helpful in combating disease. However, green tea also contains small amounts of vitamin K, which can counteract certain blood thinners. That makes it important to talk to your doctor before adding it to your RA treatment regimen if you take blood thinners.
Sour cherries and pomegranates. Both fruits contain the flavonoid anthocyanin. A study published online in Advanced Biomedical Research in March 2014 found that pomegranate juice has many beneficial properties, including inhibiting inflammation, which makes it helpful for people with RA. Like pomegranates, cherries are rich in antioxidants, which can protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Sour cherries may also lower levels of nitric oxide, a compound linked to RA.
Fish oil. Found in wild salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and trout, fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which work to decrease inflammation and reduce symptoms of RA. Consider eating fatty fish rich in omega-3s like salmon twice a week, or supplementing with omega-3 fish oil capsules.
Parsley. Parsley contains the flavonoid luteolin. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in June 2016 found that luteolin and other flavonoids help block inflammatory proteins. Further studies of parsley and its effect on people are still needed, but the easy-to-grow herb is another anti-inflammatory food that just might help reduce pain and stiffness.