I want to eat more plant-based. Is it healthy to go vegan?

It is absolutely healthy to be vegan, or any variation on the plant-based theme you choose. Plant-based diets are associated to health benefits such as reduced heart disease and type-2 diabetes risk. The more strict the diet, however, the more planning and attention you have to pay to getting certain nutrients. Vegans in particular should be aware that they include sources of B12, iron, vitamin D, calcium and zinc in their diets. It’s also possible that you may need to take iodine if there’s no regular source of iodised salt.

Are there foods I should avoid to prevent my rheumatoid arthritis from exacerbating?

There are no foods proven to worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, but some claim to benefit from eliminating nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes and tomato products (even ketchup), eggplant, potatoes and peppers. If you notice a positive change by eliminating these, it’s probably working; if you feel no different, then it’s probably not worth continuing.

For most medical conditions, the focus should be an overall healthy diet, rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and beans. To help manage or decrease inflammation, try to incorporate salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout and herring into your diet on a regular basis, or adding flaxseed if you’re not a fan of fish.

How do I know if I am getting too many calories (or too little calories)?

Consuming too few calories compared to what your body requires is a form of stress for the body and will inevitably not help you manage your personal best weight and enjoy flexible eating habits over time. Your metabolism is like a furnace, if food is in short supply it slows the furnace or metabolism down. On the other hand, eating too many calories for what your body requires is one of the leading causes of obesity. Work with an experienced dietitian that can help you determine how many calories you need each day and can teach you the science of nutrition and practical ideas to execute a sustainable eating plan.