Myth: Avoid "Nightshade" Veggies
There's talk out there that tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and peppers can make your RA symptoms worse. Take this advice with a grain of salt. There's no hard evidence that foods from the nightshade family are a problem. So don't skip these brightly-colored veggies that are loaded with nutrients. As with all of these myths and facts, you should consult with your doctor for the best advice for your treatment and lifestyle.
Fact: Eat Fish to Curb Inflammation
You can't go wrong with salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. They're loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are superstars in the fight against tender joints and stiffness. They may even let you cut back on medication -- with your doctor's OK, of course. To get the most benefits, try to eat at least a 3- to 6-ounce serving of fish a couple of times a week.
Myth: Apple Cider Vinegar Cuts Pain
It's a popular home remedy for achy joints, but don't follow the crowd on this one. Despite claims that a nutrient called beta-carotene can fight RA, there's no proof it does. And even if that ingredient were useful, there's only a tiny amount in apple cider vinegar. You're better off using the stuff to dress your salad.
Fact: Fiber Is Your Friend
Feel free to dig into foods with plenty of this stuff. It's a good way to help you fight back against RA. Studies show it can lower your levels of a chemical called C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a sign of inflammation. So how much do you need? Fill a quarter of your plate with whole grains and half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal.
Myth: Stay Away From Citrus
There's no proof that cutting it from your menu will improve your RA symptoms. If you avoid these fruits, you'll miss out on key nutrients like vitamin C, which helps build new cartilage in your joints. So go ahead and enjoy that morning grapefruit -- it does a body good.
Fact: Green Tea May Slow Joint Damage
If you're a fan of this drink, go for it. Though there is not strong scientific evidence for this, green tea is brimming with nutrients that calm inflammation and ease pain. More research is still needed, but some of the antioxidants in green tea may actually slow cartilage destruction. Another one blocks the production of molecules that are known to cause joint damage. Steep your tea bag in hot water for 5 minutes to get the most out of it. If you like, chill it and add a lemon wedge and a spoonful of honey.
Myth: Dairy Makes RA Worse
You don't have to cut milk, cheese, or yogurt from your diet. There's not much evidence that your joints will feel better if you skip those foods. And keep in mind that some RA meds put you at greater risk for osteoporosis, so you don't want to miss out on dairy's bone-building benefits.
Fact: Beans Fight Inflammation
They've got a lot going for them. For one thing, they're high in fiber and muscle-building proteins. But there's more. They come loaded with nutrients that boost your immune system, like folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Pinto and kidney beans will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Myth: Raw Food Diets Slow Down RA
It's an ultra-restrictive food plan and it's just not worth it. It's true that one study in the 1990s found that people who followed a raw vegan diet -- with some probiotics added in -- got some relief from their symptoms. But overall, it didn't put the brakes on the progress of their disease.
Fact: Processed Foods Are No Good
While omega-3 fatty acids help ease inflammation, omega-6 fatty acids may do the opposite. They're found in oils like corn, safflower, peanut, and vegetable. And they also show up in a lot of snack foods. An easy fix: Clear your pantry of chips, crackers, and packaged baked goods. Stock up instead on healthier things like fresh fruits, raw veggies, hummus, nuts, or popcorn.
Myth: Gin-Soaked Raisins Ease Pain
It may sound bizarre, but some people swear it's a remedy for RA pain. The supposed science behind why it works: The sulfur used to preserve raisins can prevent joint damage, and juniper berries -- which flavor gin -- are anti-inflammatory. While this folk remedy probably won't hurt you, it's not likely to relieve your pain.
Fact: Jury's Still Out on Gluten
Is there a link between gluten and joint pain? For people with a disorder called celiac disease, there definitely is. But for RA, the answer isn't so clear. A lot of people say their symptoms get better when they cut out it out of their diet, but there's not a lot of research to back that up. Still, it may be worth discussing with your doctor.
Myth: The Right Diet Cures RA
If a diet claims it can knock out your condition forever, beware. Some meal plans may help with symptoms like achy joints and morning stiffness, but it isn't going to make your disease go away. A shift in your eating habits works best when it's part of an overall treatment strategy that you work out with your doctor.