If you’ve been researching ways to improve your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis symptoms, you’re probably already familiar with the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet. However, putting dietary goals into practice isn’t always as easy as it seems. Financial concerns, time constraints, unfamiliar ingredients, picky family members, and physical limitations can make it hard to eat well every day.
People with psoriatic disease deal with many of the same challenges as everyone else when it comes to healthy eating. MyPsoriasisTeam members often share their difficulties when it comes to eating the right foods. “We know what we are supposed to eat,” one member wrote. “It seems that for me, I’m not ready to do it right. I can’t afford the food, am too busy to do proper meal prep, or am just too stinking tired to do it.”
“My doctor wants me to try controlling my psoriatic arthritis with diet,” wrote another member. “It’s really hard to do when I cook for my hubby, daughter, and her whole family.”
In addition, those with symptoms affecting the mouth may struggle to prep or eat certain ingredients. “For the last several months, I have had a small sore in my mouth, and it bleeds when I take my partial out at night,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member wrote. “I have had a soft tissue treatment with my dentist, and it’s still not better. I know it's not really common, but you can get psoriasis on the soft tissue of your mouth.”
Here are some tips to make anti-inflammatory nutrition a habit despite the barriers brought on by life and psoriasis.
You can save money and eat better by preparing meals at home instead of frequenting restaurants and buying takeout. Even seemingly inexpensive fast food meals can add up to cost more than simple ingredients from the grocery store.
Cutting back on nonessential foods and beverages high in sugar and fat but lacking in nutrition can save you money and improve your health. For example, drink tap water instead of soda, and avoid or reduce processed snack foods. Instead of buying frozen meals that are high in sodium, stock your pantry with basic ingredients in bulk that can be portioned out at home (like dry rice or a whole chicken).
Colorful berries are full of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, fresh berries aren’t cheap, and they tend to go bad quickly. Buying frozen berries gives you a chance to stock up during sales. You can also avoid wasting food by taking out one portion at a time.
And if you thought you had to buy fresh to get the maximum nutrition from berries, think again. It turns out that frozen produce has the same — and sometimes better — nutritional value than their fresh counterparts. Because fresh fruits and vegetables usually have to travel a distance before being sold, they’re more likely to be picked before reaching peak ripeness. Frozen berries, however, can be harvested at their ideal state and immediately preserved until you get a chance to eat them.
Berries pair well with nuts, too. Luckily, both are considered anti-inflammatory foods. Add frozen berries to oatmeal or yogurt and drizzle on some nut butter for a nutritious, high-fiber meal with a dose of healthy fats.
Dry beans, peas, and lentils are protein sources that can help you reduce your consumption of red meats, which can improve your psoriasis symptoms. Fortunately, they’re also versatile, low-cost food items. By cooking beans and legumes from scratch, you can avoid the added sodium from canned products. All it takes is a little planning.
You should soak most beans (other than lentils and black-eyed peas) before cooking. For an overnight soak, add 10 cups of cold water for every two cups of beans. Store the beans and water in a covered container in the refrigerator for about eight hours. Expect the beans to expand by two- or three-fold after soaking. Once they’re done soaking, rinse the beans and cook them in a boiling pot of water until they soften.
If you don’t feel like waiting overnight, you can boil six cups of water for every two cups of dry beans. After boiling the beans for two to three minutes, take the pot off the heat and cover it. Let the beans soak in the hot water for an hour before rinsing and reboiling as above.
If you have a blender, smoothies are an easy catch-all for ingredients that might be tricky to incorporate into everyday meals. For example, it’s easy to sprinkle some ginger, turmeric, or chia seeds and flaxseeds (for omega-3 fatty acids) into a liquid breakfast or a snack. Add leafy greens for a boost of vitamins and minerals.
For those with psoriasis of the lips, gums, or mouth tissue, drinking from a straw may be less painful than chewing. Although you shouldn’t rely on a liquid diet to manage your symptoms, incorporating smoothies into your eating plan could help make life easier during a flare-up.
Blenders that double as food processors are a great tool for transitioning toward a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is popular in the medical community for its proven benefits for many inflammatory conditions, including psoriasis. You can use a food processor to make an olive tapenade or blend your own hummus with extra virgin olive oil to boost your intake of monounsaturated fatty acids. For monounsaturated fat with a Mexican twist, guacamole is also easy to prepare in the food processor. Add lemon to keep it from browning.
Stressing over food can do more harm than good, especially when you have psoriasis (which can be exacerbated by stress). If you share a kitchen with people who don’t have the same dietary needs, mealtimes can start to feel like a battle. Work may present similar challenges, with luncheons or happy hours that don’t adhere to your eating plan.
If recruiting others to eat like you doesn’t seem to be working, you’ll need to refocus on your goals and learn to make an anti-inflammatory diet work with your lifestyle, not against it. Unless you have specific food triggers that must be completely avoided, the goal of an anti-inflammatory diet is to eat well most of the time. Focus on the wonderful new foods you’re adding to your diet rather than what you’re restricting. An all-or-nothing mentality usually backfires, so remember to be kind to yourself on the journey to better health.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 96,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Are you living with psoriasis? Share your experience with changing your eating habits in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.