Inflammation is part of the immune system’s natural response to injury or stress. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the joints of the body become chronically inflamed because the body’s immune system is mistakenly reacting to healthy joint tissue instead of stressed or injured tissue. That’s why RA is called an autoimmune disease—your immune system is attacking healthy cells. For people with RA, learning to manage and reduce inflammation in the body is critical. But what most people don’t realize is that, along with your activity level and your sleep patterns, your diet plays a big role in the level of inflammation in your body. Some foods, like processed foods and those high in fat or sugar, can increase inflammation. But removing inflammatory ingredients from your diet is less about avoiding specific foods and more about balancing your diet with foods that naturally suppress inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods include fruits, vegetables and nuts because they provide us with antioxidants. A constant supply of antioxidants will help protect your cells from free radicals—those damaged cells that form in the body when we’re exposed to environmental toxins. Still, more than anything, maintaining a healthy weight should be your main goal. If you sustain a healthy weight, more likely than not, you’re already managing any inflammation in your body. No doubt there will be those times when you want to enjoy a slice of cake, and that’s perfectly alright. But in general, the healthier you eat, the better you’re going to feel. Here are two quick and delicious side dishes that will give you a boost of antioxidants and won’t add stress to your meal prep. Chickpeas with Spinach Time: 10 minutes Yield: 4 servings Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive oil 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced 1 teaspoon cumin 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (roughly 1 15-ounce can) 8 cups fresh spinach ¼ teaspoon kosher salt Fresh ground pepper to taste Directions: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the garlic, cumin and paprika. Cook for one to two minutes, until fragrant. Add chickpeas and spinach. Cook until the spinach wilts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Walnuts Time: 30 minutes Yield: 4 servings Ingredients: 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon light brown sugar 1/2 pound baby Brussels sprouts, halved 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt Fresh cracked black pepper to taste 3/4 cup toasted walnuts Directions: Preheat oven to 400° F. Combine the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan to create a balsamic syrup. Gently heat on the stove until the sugar dissolves, small bubbles form on top and the mixture thickens. Store any leftover syrup in a sealed jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up to a month. Toss the baby Brussels sprouts with the extra virgin olive oil, smoked sea salt and cracked black pepper. Spread the Brussels sprouts onto a baking sheet, making sure not to crowd the pan. Roast the Brussels sprouts in the oven for about 20 minutes (or until slightly browned), turning once halfway through. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts over the roasted Brussels sprouts and drizzle the balsamic syrup on top. Serve warm or at room temperature. Marisa Moore is a registered and licensed dietitian in Atlanta, Georgia, where she owns a nutrition speaking and consulting practice. For nutrition information and more tasty dishes like these, visit www.marisamoore.com.