To Reduce RA Risk, Watch What You Eat

To Reduce RA Risk, Watch What You Eat

What you eat may help prevent your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

There’s no foolproof way to prevent rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but doing one simple thing might slash the risk by up to a third: eating a healthy diet.

That’s what researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found when looking at data from a 20-year study of female nurses’ health. The study examined connections between what 116,000 young and middle-aged nurses ate and their risk of developing RA. The nurses filled out dietary questionnaires at the beginning of the study and every four years thereafter, and reported if they developed RA, which was then confirmed with screenings.

The end result: Women who stuck closely to Harvard’s healthy eating guidelines had a lower risk of developing RA. And while these dietary findings applied just to women, eating a healthy diet can’t hurt, guys.

Put These on Your Grocery List
But what was included in that healthy diet? Pretty much the same foods you know are good for you in so many other ways: lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats (an excuse to eat avocados!) and omega-3s in fish, nuts and legumes.

These are all part of an anti-inflammatory diet plan. Inflammation is the body’s response to infection or injury, but it can also be increased or decreased by what you eat. Your body reacts to certain foods almost like an infection, increasing inflammation. Too much inflammation can contribute to certain diseases -- including, possibly, rheumatoid arthritis.

But Skip the Junk
But just eating these foods doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Also reduce the amount of processed foods (think boxed candy, cookies, crackers and white bread), eat less red meat and processed meats (like deli meats) and cut out trans fat (usually found in processed foods and junky snacks).

A good grocery store rule of thumb: Stick to the outside aisles, where the fresh produce and meats are and away from the center with all the packaged snacks and sweets.