Nutrition for Rheumatoid Arthritis

March 7, 2022 , ,

Foods to Limit for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Obesity as well as an increased body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference are risk factors for RA. Thus, a healthy diet that limits processed foods is to be prioritized for weight management.

High consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as consumption of more than four cups of coffee per day, have been associated with the development of RA.

Excessive consumption of red meat is associated with an increased risk of RA. Possible explanations for this association include increased inflammation related to saturated fats and nitrites in red meat. A high intake of sodium is also associated with an increased risk of RA.

To date, data about dairy consumption is controversial, with studies reporting positive, negative or no association between dairy consumption and RA development. It has been hypothesized that dairy consumption may be associated with the development of RA by triggering an inflammatory response, although only a small proportion of RA patients examined for mucosal sensitivity showed signs of reactivity to milk proteins. Another hypothesis is that red meat, eggs and dairy products are the main sources of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a pro-inflammatory metabolite derived from the metabolism of choline and carnitine. On the other hand, a protective effect of milk could be related to its vitamin D content.

What About Elimination Diets Like the Seignalet Diet?

Dr. Seignalet’s diet involves eliminating dairy products, gluten, corn, as well as meats cooked at a temperature above 110°C in order to reduce inflammation. Although it is not supported by scientific evidence, many testimonials report its positive effects on inflammation and pain. Our Chronic Inflammation meal plan is designed for people who want to try this diet.

Studies suggest that the positive effects seen with elimination diets may be associated with a decrease in the inflammatory response associated with the consumption of certain foods. Studies involving various dietary restrictions have suggested that responses are highly individualized and depend primarily on individual food intolerances or allergies. It should be noted that dietary restrictions may also evoke a placebo effect leading to an improvement in well-being.

Should Nightshades be Eliminated?

One of the myths about RA is to avoid foods from the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and goji berries. The belief is that the inflammation is caused by an accumulation of solanine, a chemical compound found in these plants. However, this belief is not supported by scientific evidence, and avoiding the trace amounts of solanine present in these foods is unlikely to reduce arthritis pain or inflammation. On the contrary, nightshades are rich in fiber and in protective nutrients against RA.


In conclusion, maintaining a healthy body weight and healthy eating habits including a variety of unprocessed plant-based foods and omega-3s, as well as regular physical activity practice should be prioritized to reduce inflammation and symptoms in people with RA. Our Mediterranean Weight Loss and Vegetarian meal plans can help you with balanced meals that are rich in plant-based whole foods.


* Dourado et coll. (2020) Diet as a Modulator of Intestinal Microbiota in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Nutrients;12(11):3504.

* Gioia et coll. (2020) Dietary Habits and Nutrition in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Diet Influence Disease Development and Clinical Manifestations? Nutrients;12(5):1456.

* Lee, Bae et Song (2012) Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis. Arch Med Res;43:356–362.

* Philipou et coll. (2021) Rheumatoid arthritis and dietary interventions: systematic review of clinical trials. Nutr Rev; 79(4):410-428.

* McDougall et coll. (2002) Effects of a very low-fat, vegan diet in subjects with rheumatoid arthritis. J. Altern. Complement; 8, 71–75.

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Kathryn Adel
Kathryn holds a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition as well as a Bachelor and a Master Degree in Kinesiology, all from Laval University. She is a Registered Dietitian and active member of the Ordre professionnel des Diététistes Nutritionnistes du Québec (ODNQ) and of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds the Monash University's certification for the FODMAP diet and IBS, and has considerable clinical experience in that area. She is also an accomplished athlete, having ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health.

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