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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Diet: Care Instructions

Where joint pain occurs with rheumatoid arthritis


The best diet for people with rheumatoid arthritis is a healthy, balanced diet. This is one that is low in saturated fat and salt and high in fibre and complex carbohydrate (whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables).

Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) has a modest effect in reducing inflammation, and eating fish may improve symptoms.

People who have rheumatoid arthritis have a high risk of developing osteoporosis. To help prevent this disease, get plenty of calcium and vitamin D.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Try to eat at least 2 servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, include:
    • Tuna.
    • Salmon.
    • Mackerel.
    • Rainbow trout.
    • Herring.
    • Sardines.
  • If you're pregnant, talk to your doctor about eating fish. Pregnant women shouldn't eat certain types of fish that have high mercury content.
  • You may need to take a calcium supplement to make sure you are getting the calcium you need.
  • Vitamin D recommendations vary from province to province. Talk with your doctor about how much vitamin D you need. If you are 50 or older, Health Canada recommends taking a supplement with 400 IU of vitamin D each day.
  • Foods with calcium, vitamin D, or both include:
    • Yogurt (plain or low-fat). A ¾-cup (175 mL) serving provides about 260 mg of calcium.
    • Cheddar cheese. A 1½-ounce (50 g) serving provides about 250 mg of calcium.
    • Milk (skim, 2%, or whole). A 1-cup (250 mL) serving provides about 300 mg of calcium and about 100 IU of vitamin D.
    • Cottage cheese (1% milk fat). A 1-cup (250 mL) serving provides about 150 mg of calcium.
    • Calcium and vitamin D-fortified orange juice. A ½-cup (125 mL) serving provides about 155 mg of calcium and about 50 IU of vitamin D.
    • Calcium and vitamin D-fortified soy beverage. A 1-cup (250 mL) serving provides about 300 mg of calcium and about 90 IU of vitamin D.
    • Almonds. A ¼-cup (60 mL) serving provides about 93 mg of calcium.
    • Canned salmon with bones. A 75 gram-serving (2½-ounce) provides about 200 mg of calcium and about 435 IU of vitamin D.
    • Tofu (firm, made with calcium sulfate). A ¾-cup (150 g) serving provides about 300 mg of calcium.

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.