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Eating Healthy to Manage Lupus

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

April 7, 2020

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation and can affect multiple organs. It also is linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, specifically lymphoma, cancers of the cervix, and other cancers. In recent years, researchers have found that a healthy diet can help reduce the comorbidities that come with systemic lupus. There is no established diet for lupus, but a whole food, plant-based approach can benefit most patients.

Below are some healthy diet recommendations for those diagnosed with lupus. However, a more personalized healthy eating plan is always best and before starting any diet plan, please consult with your physician.

1) Watch your calories. Caloric restriction can alter the progression of autoimmune diseases. It lowers the level of fatigue and may promote weight loss in patients with chronic use of corticosteroids.

2) Choose anti-inflammatory fats. Foods high in omega-3 can reduce the inflammatory response. Include walnuts, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, salmon, tuna, sardine, herring, and krill oil into your diet.

3) Choose whole foods and whole grains. Changes in the gut flora in response to high fiber intake can reduce inflammatory markers.

4) Get your vitamins C and D. Vitamin C reduces inflammation and antibody levels. Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with more severe disease activity. Include salmon, trout, herring, sardine, dairy products, egg yolks, and cheese into your diet.

5) Get your minerals. Selenium has antioxidant and anti‑inflammatory effects and can be added to a patient’s diet by eating nuts, whole cereals, eggs, and ricotta. Calcium can help prevent bone mass loss, which can benefit patients with chronic use of corticosteroids. Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, broccoli, sardine, salmon, and oral supplements.

5 Foods to Limit or Avoid

  • Alfalfa sprouts: Some studies revealed that alfalfa sprouts induced a lupus‑like syndrome in otherwise healthy individuals and reactivated lupus in patients with inactive disease.
  • Iron: Iron should be used only in anemic patients, since excess of iron can aggravate renal impairment and a deficiency exacerbates symptoms.
  • Zinc: A decrease in zinc intake can improve symptoms in patients and also reduce levels of antibodies (anti‑dsDNA). Zinc is particularly found in mollusks, but also in milk, soybeans, and spinach.
  • Sodium: For patients with high blood pressure or lupus-related kidney disease, a low salt diet may help, sodium intake can exacerbate renal dysfunction.
  • Omega-6: Omega‑6 may exac­erbate systemic lupus activity. Since the Western diet is high in omega-6, try a more Mediterranean or whole food plant-based diet approach.

The recipe of the week comes via

Indian Turmeric Rice

*Note: Curcumin has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects and has been found to improve disease activity in lupus patients.


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup Jasmine rice
  • kosher salt


Heat a medium-sized pot on the stovetop.  Add oil and onion and cook until onion is tender, about 3 minutes.  Add turmeric and curry powder and stir for 15-30 seconds.  Add broth and bring to a boil, and then add rice.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover pot and cook for 20 minutes, covered the entire time.  Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and add salt to taste before serving.

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