The role of diet in inflammation
While there’s no cure for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), treatment can help:
- manage pain relief
- slow progression of the disease
- reduce inflammation
Inflammation plays a large role in worsening symptoms of RA, an aggressive form of arthritis. The disease is said to be in remission when inflammation is low or absent.
Research shows that different foods play a role in arthritis inflammation. Foods that are rich in nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants may help neutralize RA inflammation and alleviate symptoms. One of the foods most often recommended for symptom and inflammation reduction is pomegranate. Pomegranate is low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and it’s rich in nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants.
Read on to learn how pomegranate helps RA and alleviates its symptoms.
The pomegranate and RA connection
Studies show that pomegranate can reduce RA symptoms by:
- decreasing joint tenderness, swelling, and pain
- suppressing inflammation
- blocking production of cartilage-destroying enzyme
- alleviating the activity of RA
It’s suggested that pomegranate extract may block production of a cartilage-destroying enzyme. A small 2011 study showed that pomegranate extract decreased joint tenderness in RA patients by 62 percent. Researchers credited the fruit’s antioxidant properties, concluding that pomegranates may help lessen symptoms in people who have RA.
A 2016 study found that pomegranate extract can reduce biomarkers of the condition and oxidative stress. Participants who were given pomegranate extract twice a day experienced significantly less joint tenderness, swelling, and pain intensity than those in the placebo group.
How should you eat pomegranates?
Pomegranates can be consumed in several forms. Pomegranate is available as a:
- natural fruit
When shopping for pomegranate juice, read labels carefully. Products with added sugars aren’t healthy. Drinking 8 ounces of juice daily can be effective. You’ll want to look for juice that’s 100 percent pomegranate. Drink the juice in moderation if it’s still high in sugar.
If you take pomegranate extract, taking 10 milligrams a day can reduce some symptoms. Some people even take up to 250 mg a day.
Ask your doctor
Consult your doctor if you’re considering pomegranate supplements or extracts. It’s important to note that pomegranate juice may interact with some medications and make them less effective.
These medications include:
- ACE inhibitors
- blood pressure medication
- warfarin, for blood thinning
In general, pomegranate is considered safe. Research shows that there are no adverse effects in the studies.
If you have diabetes, you may need to take care to find 100 percent pomegranate juice. Most juices contain high levels of sugar and are without fiber.
More reasons to eat pomegranates
Like most fruits, the pomegranate is packed with essential nutrients and dietary fiber that should be part of a balanced, healthy diet. Diet plays a vital role in overall health and well-being, and it’s important for people with RA to take care of their health and stay strong.
The pomegranate has little saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. As a healthy food, it has:
- vitamin K
One pomegranate contains about 40 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. They also contain punicalagins, which have powerful antioxidants.
Another study has found that it can reduce the risk of prostate cancers in men and even induce apoptosis (or cell death) in cancer cells.
Pomegranates juice is also thought to improve memory and protect both heart and brain function. One study saw that participants who drank 8 oz. of juice every day for a month had significant memory improvement.
What other foods can help RA?
Pomegranates, while beneficial, are not the only food to help treat RA. Other foods that are high in nutrients and have anti-inflammatory properties are:
- fish like salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines, and fish oil supplements
- nuts like walnuts, almonds, pistachios
- brown rice
- olive oil
- cooked green, yellow, and orange vegetables
- cooked or dried fruits, but not citrus, bananas, peaches, or tomatoes
Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce joint swelling and pain, as well as reduce morning stiffness. If you take fish oil supplements, it’s recommended that you take between 600–1000 mg daily.
A 2011 study also found that multiple types of nuts reduce inflammation without causing weight gain. Eating about 1.5 oz. (or a little more than a handful) of nuts a day can fight inflammation.
Any way you slice it, the pomegranate is high in nutrition, low in calories, and part of a healthy diet. But for people with RA, pomegranates may have extra benefits. These benefits include reducing inflammation, joint pain, and cartilage removal.
You can take pomegranate in the form of juice, extract, or as the whole fruit. Studies show that 8 oz. of juice a day may be beneficial. But you should take care to look at the nutrition labels as some juices may have a lot of added sugar.
Talk to your doctor if you plan on taking pomegranate for RA. While considered generally safe, pomegranate can cause unintended side effects when mixed with medications.