Foods to Avoid If You Have Arthritis
8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation
- 8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause InflammationWhen you have arthritis, your body is in an inflammatory state. What you eat may not only increase inflammation, it can also set you up for other chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Here are 8 food ingredients that may trigger more inflammation in your body.
- SugarIt may be hard to resist desserts, pastries, chocolate bars, sodas, even fruit juices. However, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar goes by many names so look out for any word ending in “ose,” e.g. fructose or sucrose on ingredient labels.
- Saturated FatsSeveral studies have shown that saturated fats trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation, which is not only an indicator for heart disease but it also worsens arthritis inflammation. Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats in the average American diet, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other culprits include meat products (especially red meat), full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes and grain-based desserts.
- Trans FatsHarvard School of Public Health researchers helped sound the alarm about trans fat in the early 1990s. Known to trigger systemic inflammation, trans fat can be found in fast foods and other fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, cookies, donuts, crackers and most stick margarines. Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient labels.
- Omega 6 Fatty AcidsOmega 6 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that the body needs for normal growth and development. The body needs a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. These fatty acids are found in oils such corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.
- Refined CarbohydratesWhite flour products (breads, rolls, crackers) white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes, or french fries) and many cereals are refined carbohydrates. According to Scientific American, processed carbohydrates may trump fats as the main driver of escalating rates of obesity and other chronic conditions. These high-glycemic index foods fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation.
- MSGMono-sodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor-enhancing food additive most commonly found in prepared Asian food and soy sauce, but it can also be added to fast foods, prepared soups and soup mixes, salad dressings and deli meats. This chemical can trigger two important pathways of chronic inflammation, and affect liver health.
- Gluten and CaseinCommon allergens like gluten and casein (proteins found in dairy and wheat) may also promote inflammation. For individuals living with arthritis who also have celiac disease (gluten allergy) and dairy intolerance, the inflammatory effect can be even worse. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. Casein is found in whey protein products.
- AspartameTrying to go sugar-free? Aspartame is a non-nutritive, intense artificial sweetener found in more than 4,000 products worldwide. It is a neurotoxin, which means it affects the brain. If you are sensitive to this chemical, your immune system will react to the “foreign substance” by attacking the chemical, which in return, will trigger an inflammatory response.
- AlcoholAlcohol is a burden to the liver. Excessive use weakens liver function and disrupts other multi-organ interactions and can cause inflammation. It is best eliminated or used in moderation.
- Beating InflammationCutting back on foods that promote inflammation, increasing the proportion of fruits and vegetables in your diet, making fish your main protein and getting more omega-3s can make a big difference in your arthritis symptoms. Want to know what to include in an arthritis-friendly diet, visit Arthritis Diet.
Fats and Oils to Avoid
Not all fats are created equally. Learn which ones to limit in your anti-inflammatory diet.
Not too many years ago, people were told to avoid all fat. Today, fat is no longer the dietary bad guy. In fact, certain fats are essential to a healthy eating plan. But others may increase your inflammation and harm your overall health.
Fats to Limit
Found in meat, butter and cheese, saturated fats stay solid at room temperature. Saturated fats can raise your total and your LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels. “People with arthritis are more at risk for heart disease, so they need to be watching [their cholesterol levels],” says Christine McKinney, RD, a clinical dietitian at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Small amounts of saturated fats can be incorporated into a healthy diet, but should be limited to less than 10% of your total calorie intake. That would be no more than 20 grams of saturated fat per day for a person consuming 2000 calories.
There might be one exception in the saturated fat category – coconut oil. This plant-based form of saturated fat has gained popularity in recent years, and animal studies published in 2014 and 2015 have suggested it has anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike other saturated fats, coconut oil is made mostly of medium-chain fatty acids, and your body processes those differently. While you don’t want to overdo it on coconut oil, small quantities might be ok. “I think including a little saturated fat from a healthy source like coconut oil is fine, but that shouldn’t be your main fat,” says McKinney.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated oils contain two types of essential fatty acids (ones the body can’t produce itself): omega-3s and omega-6s. Omega-3s are found in oily fish, flaxseeds and walnuts and are known to be anti-inflammatory. Omega-6s are found in oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soy and vegetable, and products made with those oils. Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals, and the American diet tends to be very high in omega-6s. They aren’t bad and shouldn’t be avoided, but you don’t want them to dominate your intake.
Fats to Avoid
Although they are found in very small amounts naturally in beef and dairy products, most trans fats are created by manufacturers when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. This process keeps the oil solid at room temperature and extends its shelf life. You’ll find trans fats in commercial baked goods, fried foods and margarine. Ideally, you should consume no added trans fats at all.
“Both trans fats and saturated fats raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, but trans fats are a little more villainous, because they also reduce HDL, or good cholesterol. That dual effect raises the risk of heart disease,” says Cindy Moore, a dietitian and nutrition therapy director at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
How to Eat Less Salt
Excess salt consumption can raise your risk of serious health problems.
| By Linda Richards
Health experts agree, too much salt is a bad thing. But how much is too much? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people over 51 years old, African Americans, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease should get 1,500 mg – about ½ teaspoon – of sodium each day. Everyone else should limit salt to less than 2,300 mg a day. Yet the average American eats about 3,400 mg of sodium a day.
Too much salt makes cells attract water like a sponge. “The retention of water increases pressure on blood vessels and raises blood pressure,” says Lalita Kaul, PhD, nutrition professor at Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. Cutting down on salt can lower your risk for high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, kidney disease and a heart attack. Eating less salt may also reduce calcium loss from bones, reducing osteoporosis and fracture risk.
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may feel salt’s effects even more. Corticosteroids, commonly used to treat RA, cause the body to hold more sodium. Kaul’s advice: Keep salt to less than 1,500 mg daily.
Even if you aren’t a “salt shaker,” you may get too much. Nearly all canned, ready-made convenience foods contain sodium to keep them from spoiling. Restaurant cooks add salt to make food tasty.
If you find a low-sodium diet too bland, perk up the flavor with herbs and spices. At first, foods may not taste salty enough, but over time they may start to taste too salty. And that’s a good thing, says Kaul.
Easy Ways to Lower Your Salt Intake
- Read labels carefully. Salt by any other name is still salt. Look for salt’s alias – sodium. The higher up on the ingredients list it appears, the more salt is in the product. Look for products labeled sodium-free, salt-free, low-sodium, very low-sodium, reduced or less sodium, or light in sodium.
- Fake it. Try a salt substitute. Low-sodium (Morton Lite Salt Mixture, LoSalt) and no-sodium (AlsoSalt Original, Morton Salt Substitute) brands replace part or all of the sodium with potassium chloride for a similar salty taste. If you have kidney disease or you take heart or blood pressure medicines, talk to your doctor before using these salt substitutes, because they can raise your blood potassium levels. Sodium- and potassium-free products (Maine Coast Kelp Granules, Benson’s Table Tasty) contain dried seaweed or yeast. Because seaweed can interfere with thyroid function, use kelp granules in moderation.
- Wash it down. Give canned vegetables a good rinse. Washing thoroughly in cold water can reduce their salt content by almost half.
- Spice things up. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to season foods. Pepper, lemon juice and vinegar can all enhance flavor.
- Swap breakfast. Many prepared breakfast foods, such as bagels and cereal, are loaded with sodium. Look for low-salt or no-salt breads, yogurt, hash browns and other breakfast foods. Switch from packaged cereal or packets of instant oatmeal to quick-cut oats.
- Get fresh. Fresh meats, fruits and vegetables and whole grains are naturally low in sodium. Canned meats and soups, soup mixes, frozen dinners and processed lunchmeats often have a high sodium content.
- Eat in. Restaurant sauces, soups, fries and burgers are known for their high salt content. Ask your server to have the chef go light on the salt. Better yet, eat meals you’ve cooked yourself.
- Limit condiments. Products such as ketchup, mustard, pickles, olives, sauerkraut, Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce are almost always high in sodium.
- Get tricky. Out of sight is sometimes out of mind. Simply taking the saltshaker off the table and putting it behind the door of a closed kitchen cabinet may help you use less.
Cutting back on table sugar? Here are six sweet alternatives – and the best ways to use them.
| By Sharon Liao
Whether you’re trying to cut calories or curb your consumption of refined products, reducing the table sugar in your diet is a smart start. To help you make the sweetest pick for stirring, sprinkling or baking, here’s our scoop on six sugar substitutes.
Derived from the leaf of a South American shrub, this natural substance is up to 200 times as sweet as sugar. Stevia-based products like Truvia and Pure Via are made from a purified extract of the plant, called rebaudioside A (Reb A), and sugar alcohols.
Pros: It’s a natural sweetener that’s free of artificial chemicals. You also can use stevia in cooking and baking.
Cons: Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Reb A as a sugar substitute, the whole leaf and crude extracts – sold as supplements in health food stores – have not been approved.
Try it in: Anything that you would use sugar in. Keep in mind that stevia is more potent, so follow the recommended conversions on the label for baking and cooking.
Found in diet drinks, sugar-free gum and those blue packets, this synthetic sweetener is sold under the brand names Equal and NutraSweet.
Pros: Introduced in 1981, aspartame is one of the most studied sweeteners on the market. Despite the rumors, there’s no conclusive evidence of a link between aspartame and cancer, according to the FDA and American Cancer Society.
Cons: Heat can break down aspartame, which creates a bitter aftertaste, so avoid cooking with it. Also, aspartame can trigger headaches or stomach discomfort in certain people, says registered dietitian Christine Gerbstadt, MD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In some sensitive people, it can trigger an inflammatory response as well.
Try it in: Yogurt, coffee or sprinkled on fruit.
Also called Splenda, and sold in yellow packets, it’s made from a chemically tweaked version of sugar that isn’t absorbed by the body. The sweetener is used in a bevy of products, such as soft drinks, cereals and baked goods.
Pros: Because sucralose can withstand heat, you can use it for cooking and baking. “It doesn’t provide the same consistency or color as sugar,” says registered dietitian Bethany Thayer, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. In other words, cookies will turn out thinner and paler. Splenda Sugar Blend, a mixture of sugar and sucralose, may produce better results.
Cons: Like aspartame, sucralose can lead to headaches and digestive issues in some people, says Gerbstadt.
Try it in: Beverages, cooked dishes or baked goods. Check the label to see how much you should use as a substitution.
Pure Maple Syrup
Boiling down the sap of a maple tree creates this caramel-colored liquid. The sweetener contains about the same amount of calories as sugar – 17 per teaspoon compared with sugar’s 16.
Pros: It contains minerals the body needs, like manganese and zinc.
Cons: Its distinct flavor affects the taste of drinks, dishes and baked goods, and not always in a desired way.
Try it in: Sauces, dressings and other recipes – it’s not just for pancakes. In baking, substitute three-quarters to one cup of maple syrup for each cup of sugar. To keep the baked good from getting too moist, reduce the liquid in the recipe by three tablespoons.
This liquid sweetener comes from the cactus-like agave plant. Its nectar is processed into syrup, which contains 20 calories per teaspoon.
Pros: Agave is lower on the glycemic index than other sweeteners, which means it doesn’t make blood sugar spike as high. The syrup also has a neutral flavor that works well in drinks and dishes. And because agave is about 50 percent sweeter than sugar, you’ll need less.
Cons: If you’re trying to cut back on processed foods, agave may not be the way to go. And it’s more expensive than sugar.
Try it in: Anything you would use sugar in. Whipping up cookies or muffins? Reduce the liquid in the recipe by about a quarter-cup per cup of substitution.
Made by bees from the nectar of flowers, honey contains 21 calories per teaspoon.
Pros: “Honey is sweeter and thicker than sugar, so people tend to use less of it,” says Gerbstadt. It’s also a natural source of antioxidants, and swapping honey for sugar may keep LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels from rising, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Cons: Honey should not be given to babies younger than 12 months because their immune systems aren’t strong enough to fend off potential contaminants in this natural product.
Try it in: Hot drinks, oatmeal, toast and yogurt. You can also use it in baked goods. Try replacing each cup of sugar with one cup less three tablespoons of honey. Reduce the liquid in the recipe by three tablespoons for each cup swapped, and add an extra pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidity.
Alcohol and Arthritis
Drink only in moderation, if at all.
If you enjoy a glass of wine or pint of beer with dinner, you might wonder whether alcohol is a friend or foe to arthritis. The answer is, it’s a bit of both.
Enjoying that glass or pint with some regularity might reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a few studies. “Moderate alcohol consumption…reduces biomarkers of inflammation, including c-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha receptor 2,” says Karen Costenbader, MD, MPH, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Inflammation is what makes your joints swell and ache when you have RA. Alcohol’s anti-inflammatory effects are also thought to be one of the reasons it appears to lower cardiovascular disease risk in moderate drinkers.
Yet the key word is moderate. “We saw that for women who drank between 5 and 10 grams of alcohol a day, there was a reduced risk of RA,” says Dr. Costenbader. That works out to less than a glass of wine or beer daily.
Once you already have arthritis, drinking may have more downsides than pluses. Many of the medicines your doctor prescribes to relieve sore joints don’t mix well with alcohol – including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), which carry a greater risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers when you drink. Taken with acetaminophen, methotrexate or leflunomide (Arava), alcohol can make you more susceptible to liver damage.
Alcohol is particularly problematic if you have gout. “Gout attacks can be brought on by purine-rich foods or drinks, and beer is high in purines,” Dr. Costenbader says. Distilled liquor, and possibly wine, can also cause problems for those with gout.
If you have arthritis and want to drink, “Get your doctor’s advice first,” Costenbader recommends. Even with a doctor’s ok, limit yourself to one glass a day. Drinking in excess is damaging to your body in many other ways. “The risk of other kinds of diseases goes up with higher alcohol consumption.” Conditions linked to drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol include cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, mouth and throat, as well as diseases like diabetes and stroke.
Alcohol, if you choose to drink it, should be only one small part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Even better ways to protect your joints – and the rest of your body – are to eat a healthy diet, exercise, control your weight and not smoke, Dr. Costenbader says.