Revealed – 10 Aggravating Foods to Avoid with RA
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease. If you’re one of the 1.5 million American adults with RA, you know that what you eat may affect how often or how extreme flare-ups are. To avoid painful flare-ups, you may want to consider steering clear of these foods:
- Margarine – Hydrogenated oils and trans fats found in products like margarine, shortening, and lard are harmful ingredients that promote inflammation. Watch out for baked goods like pies, buns, or biscuits that contain margarines. Read ingredient lists – put anything that says “partially hydrogenated” back on the shelf.
- Fried foods – Deep-fried products like onion rings, French fries, and potato chips are high in sodium, food additives, saturated and sometimes even trans fats. Fried foods are also susceptible to becoming rancid, which occurs when fat becomes oxidized and degrades. This process is incredibly pro-inflammatory.
- Salt – Too much salt or sodium can promote inflammation. Individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions can benefit from a low sodium intake – less than 1,500 mg per day, or approximately a teaspoon of salt. Watch out for packaged, processed foods, as these are generally high in sodium. Focus on fresh foods and keep an eye on food labels to make sure you don’t exceed the recommended intake.
- Alcohol – Moderate intake of alcohol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects – defined as one drink a day for women and two for men. A drink is classified as one 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1 ounce of liquor. Excessive alcohol intake places a huge burden on the liver and causes poor absorption of important nutrients that help manage inflammation. It is a fine line between moderate and excessive alcohol consumption, so be sure to enjoy responsibly.
- Refined sugar – In response to excess simple sugar intake, like those found in candy or soda, the body increases production of insulin and stress hormones. These hormones can contribute towards inflammation. Try to reduce consumption of refined sugars. Replace them with complex carbohydrates (e.g., brown rice, whole grain bread) or high-fiber carbohydrate sources (e.g., fruits, vegetables). Eating fruit cannot only help you manage your inflammation, but also help you with your sweet tooth.
- Corn oil – Contains a high proportion of omega-6 fatty acids and is considered a pro-inflammatory oil. Safflower, sunflower, peanut, and soybean oils are also high in omega-6 fatty acids and can cause inflammation. Opt for olive oil or canola oil to minimize intake of pro-inflammatory fats.
- Overly processed, packaged foods – Fast food meals and packaged goods that don’t resemble a whole food are prime examples of highly processed foods. These products are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, food additives, and unhealthy oils. To avoid stopping at a drive thru or nabbing packaged goods on the go, take time to plan healthy meals for the whole week, and always have a few go-to meals for when you are in a pinch.
- Beef – Fats from animals (other than fish) are predominantly saturated fat. Intake of high-fat beef is associated with inflammation, and animal fat may even alter our gut bacteria, causing an immune response that promotes inflammation. Beef fat is also high in omega-6 fatty acid (arachidonic acid), which is a precursor to inflammatory signals in the body. Avoid this triple inflammation threat and look for Grass-fed beef in your supermarket. It has been found to have a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that is less likely to cause an inflammatory response.
- Pork – Like beef, pork also contains pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid. Some studies have shown a link between pork consumption and signs of an increased inflammatory response. Moreover, many processed pork products (like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs) have added nitrates to help preserve color; these have been found to increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- White grain products – breads and pastas made from refined grains break down rapidly and are converted into sugar, which ultimately causes inflammation. Choose whole grains instead – these take longer to break down in the body. Whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal are a good start; try experimenting with quinoa, amaranth, or spelt if you are feeling adventurous!