18 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat to Reduce Pain
Fill up on these nutritious whole foods to nourish your body, stop pain, and ease painful inflammation.
Researchers have found that a chemical in extra-virgin olive oil, oleocanthal, inhibits inflammatory enzymes in the same way that ibuprofen does. Drizzle olive oil on veggies, salads, and other foods that reduce inflammation (and be sure to avoid these foods that make inflammation worse).
Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme, gives this tropical fruit its potential to be an anti-inflammatory food. One 2002 study suggested that bromelain might reduce knee pain in otherwise healthy adults, although the study was not placebo controlled. Other research in people, animals, and laboratory-grown cells suggest that bromelain supplements may reduce pain and inflammation in knee osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and after dental surgery. One study found that an enzyme supplement containing bromelain reduced carpal tunnel symptoms.
These popular fruits are just one of the many foods that may help reduce inflammation because they contain quercetin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. No wonder one a day keeps the doctor away. Have leftover apples? This healthy baked apple recipe is simple irresistible)
Nuts and seeds
Various nuts and seeds have a good amount of magnesium, l-arginine and vitamin E, and studies have found that eating nuts can decrease the amounts of inflammatory biomarkers in the body. The Arthritis Foundation specifically recommends walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, flax seed, and chia seeds for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Green, leafy vegetables
Vegetables like kale, chard, bok choy, and silverbeet are packed with anti-inflammatory carotenoids. These plant pigments give green and orange produce their vibrant color and thus make them great foods that reduce inflammation.
Yes, you read that correctly. Dark chocolate contains chemicals and antioxidants that may help fight inflammation. According to a large Italian study, people who ate about one square of dark chocolate every three days had lower measures of a protein associated with inflammation than those who ate no chocolate at all. At least 70 percent dark chocolate is best.
Brown rice and other whole grains containing fiber can help fight inflammation. Fiber can help lower c-reactive protein, a substance found in the blood produced by the liver in response to inflammation. Pair this rice with some other foods that reduce inflammation for a meal with a nutritious punch.
Chomp on some grapes or mulberries for a dose of resveratrol. Research shows that resveratrol supplements inhibit inflammatory enzymes in much the same way aspirin does (but without the stomach irritation). Grapes also have anthocyanins that may help reduce inflammation, too.
Cherries contain chemicals called anthocyanins, which also give berries their blue and red colors, fight inflammation in the same way aspirin does, according to research. Raspberries and strawberries are also anti-inflammatory foods.
Onions and garlic
Foods in this family of bulb vegetables, in particular, garlic, are high in anti-inflammatory substances, as well as sulfur compounds, that help stimulate the immune system to keep everything running smoothly.
Green and black tea
Tea is rich in antioxidants or flavonoids, which may protect against cell damage that can worsen conditions such as arthritis. Research shows it also contains a chemical that fights inflammation, so consider swapping that morning cup of joe for a green tea instead.
This vegetable contains vitamins C and K, folate, fiber, and antioxidants. Broccoli, high in sulforaphane, may fight inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines, research suggests. Other fruits and vegetables rich in sulforaphane, or foods that may reduce inflammation, include kale, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and more.
Oily fish such as salmon, trout, and anchovies, along with walnuts, linseeds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, and canola oil contain omega-3 fatty acids that make them anti-inflammatory foods.
Research shows that soy food consumption is related to lowering inflammation. It’s tough to eat that much pure soy protein a day, but it is still worth adding a serving of soya beans, tofu, or soy milk to your daily food intake.
Mushrooms have a variety of compounds that can help fight inflammation, specifically phenols and other anti-oxidants, research shows. A special mushroom type, lion’s mane, may also have some inflammation-fighting benefits, too. Step up your snack game with these mushroom jerky recipes.
Gut health has links with inflammation, so it’s important to consume fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi as part of an anti-inflammatory diet. The health benefits of fermented foods go well beyond inflammation, too. Research also shows they could help lower blood pressure, although more research is still necessary on the topic.
Although the perfect ripeness window is small with this fruit, it’s worth gambling on avocados since they contain so many nutrients. Compounds like carotenoids and tocopherols in avocados, among others, protect against inflammation and could also reduce your risk of heart disease, research shows.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, beans could lower an indicator of inflammation found in the blood, making them one of the foods that reduce inflammation. The best beans for fighting inflammation include small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. Next, check out these 50 proven remedies for fast pain relief.
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Oleocanthal, a Phenolic Derived from Virgin Olive Oil: A Review of the Beneficial Effects on Inflammatory Disease."
- Biomedical Reports: "Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications."
- Nutrients: "Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity."
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers."
- Arthritis Foundation: "Best Nuts and Seeds for Arthritis."
- USDA: "Dark Green Leafy Vegetables."
- Frontiers in Immunology: "Cocoa and Dark Chocolate Polyphenols: From Biology to Clinical Applications."
- Advances in Nutrition: "Effect of Nutritional Status and Dietary Patterns on Human Serum C-Reactive Protein and Interleukin-6 Concentrations."
- Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy: "Grape resveratrol increases serum adiponectin and downregulates inflammatory genes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells: a triple-blind, placebo-controlled, one-year clinical trial in patients with stable coronary artery disease."
- Nutrients: "Grape Consumption Increases Anti-Inflammatory Markers and Upregulates Peripheral Nitric Oxide Synthase in the Absence of Dyslipidemias in Men with Metabolic Syndrome."
- Hospital Nutrition: "Consumption of Cherries as a Strategy to Attenuate Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage andIn Inflammation in Humans."
- Journal of Atherosclerosis and and Thrombosis: "Attenuation of meal-induced inflammatory and thrombotic responses in overweight men and women after 6-week daily strawberry (Fragaria) intake. A randomized placebo-controlled trial."
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Garlic."
- Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry: "Sulforaphane reduces vascular inflammation in mice and prevents TNF-α-induced monocyte adhesion to primary endothelial cells through interfering with the NF-κB pathway."
- Journal of Inflammation: "Effect of Sulforaphane on NOD2 via NF-κB: implications for Crohn's disease."
- California Agriculture: "Dietary omega-3 fatty acids aid in the modulation of inflammation and metabolic health."
- Surgical Neurology: "Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain."
- Journal of Inflammation: "Soy isoflavones avert chronic inflammation-induced bone loss and vascular disease."
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Soy Food Intake and Circulating Levels of Inflammatory Markers in Chinese Women."
- Food Chemistry: "Anti-inflammatory effects of five commercially available mushroom species determined in lipopolysaccharide and interferon-γ activated murine macrophages."
- International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms: "The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Lion's Mane Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) in a Coculture System of 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and RAW264 Macrophages."
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Health benefits of fermented foods."
- Inflammation: "AV119, a natural sugar from avocado gratissima, modulates the LPS-induced proinflammatory response in human keratinocytes."
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Hass avocado composition and potential health effects."
- Mayo Clinic: "How to use food to help your body fight inflammation."
- Arthritis Foundation: "The Ultimate Arthritis Diet."