Following an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce inflammatory symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Foods that may help manage inflammation include certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even popcorn.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet is one way to reduce the amount of inflammation in the body.
While inflammation is not always a bad thing — it is the body’s natural response to protect against cell injury — it can become problematic if it persists for too long or becomes chronic.
An anti-inflammatory diet involves eating nutritious foods that have anti-inflammatory properties and reducing the intake of foods and beverages that may promote inflammation in the body, such as processed meats and foods high in added sugar.
Making small but meaningful changes to the diet may help reduce the inflammation that conditions such as RA cause. These changes may also boost energy and make it easier for a person to maintain a moderate weight.
This article looks at several anti-inflammatory recipes for different times of the day. Many of the recipes and suggested meals are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
To feel full and satisfied on an anti-inflammatory diet, people may wish to start the day with a protein-rich breakfast. Examples include:
- an omelet containing fresh vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms, and peppers
- unsweetened Greek yogurt topped with berries, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds
- oatmeal with nut butter and chopped apples
A warm cup of green tea is an excellent choice for an anti-inflammatory breakfast drink.
Incorporating fruit into the diet at breakfast, as a snack throughout the day, or as an after-dinner dessert can help decrease inflammation.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Examples of fruits to include are:
Oats are not just a great source of fiber — they also have anti-inflammatory properties. They contain components, such as bioactive phytochemicals, that
Choosing whole grain oatmeal and adding berries from the list above can boost the nutritional content and flavor of the meal while helping decrease inflammation.
Salads can be a great anti-inflammatory option for lunch.
Start with a base of mixed greens, spinach, kale, or another green leafy vegetable. Then add a lean protein source like chicken, turkey, hard-boiled eggs, or salmon, which contains anti-inflammatory
Soups are an excellent way to add vegetables and protein-rich foods to the diet. They are also an easy way to incorporate
However, they must contain enough calories and protein to help a person feel full.
Examples of soup options to try include:
- spicy vegan black bean soup
- chicken, lentil, and kale soup
- sweet potato chili
- turmeric, chicken, and chickpea vegetable soup
Most of these soups contain ingredients that people can also use in breakfasts and dinners.
As a general rule, anti-inflammatory recipes for dinner should include a filling source of protein. Fish high in omega-3 fats make a good choice, as do leaner meats like chicken and turkey.
Protein options include:
The Mediterranean diet, which is a
Many vegetables contain concentrated anti-inflammatory compounds. A person can include vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and tomatoes in an anti-inflammatory diet.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends eating at least 1 cup of beans twice per week. Examples include:
A bean medley can make an excellent protein-packed side dish or main meal.
Another dinner option for an anti-inflammatory diet is to create a delicious stir-fry. This can include a variety of proteins and vegetables in addition to rice or noodles.
Snacking on nutritious whole foods is a great way to stay full throughout the day. These snacks are great alternatives to ultra-processed packaged snacks, which can be high in sugar and salt and may increase inflammation in the body.
A simple anti-inflammatory snack is a mix of seeds and nuts, which could include:
For a more filling snack, a person can try chia pudding, which is higher in protein and fiber. Chia seeds are a natural source of antioxidants and may help prevent several oxidative stress-mediated diseases. However, researchers have
However, weight loss can be difficult for everyone, especially for those with inflammatory conditions.
Following a diet high in nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods may help with weight loss, but it is equally important to be mindful of portion sizes, overall calorie intake, and activity levels.
Anti-inflammatory diets differ in terms of which foods they include and exclude, but all versions include fats and oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, and sunflower oil.
Several types of fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, including:
Reducing fluctuations in blood sugar levels can help decrease markers of inflammation, such as oxidative stress.
Extra-virgin olive oil could also
Foods rich in vitamin D
- seafood, such as salmon
- organic eggs and eggs from pasture-raised hens
- beef liver
- fortified foods, such as milk and soy milk fortified with vitamin D
However, few foods are high in vitamin D, and many people are
For individuals with RA, the Arthritis Foundation recommends that whole grains, fruits, and vegetables make up about two-thirds of the diet. The remaining one-third should consist of low fat dairy and lean protein sources.
Foods to avoid
Just as some foods appear to decrease inflammation, others may increase it.
Fried foods can increase the number of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in a person’s blood. AGE levels tend to be high in people with inflammation, so AGEs likely play a role in the development of inflammation.
Excess omega-6 fatty acids may also cause inflammation if a person does not have enough anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in their diet to balance them out.
Some cooking oils, such as corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils, contain omega-6 fatty acids.
Anti-inflammatory diets often consist of foods that promote healthy digestion, decrease inflammatory markers, and are free from harmful sources of fats, such as trans fatty acids. Instead, these diets contain healthy fat sources such as fish and olive oil.
People with RA and other chronic inflammatory conditions may benefit from following an anti-inflammatory diet. Many recipes are available to help people incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into every meal.
A person should always consult a doctor before starting a new diet or trying a supplement for the first time. These dietary changes can sometimes lead to negative interactions with medications or have an adverse effect on overall health.
The Arthritis Foundation and other organizations provide collections of recipes that are full of anti-inflammatory foods.