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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.

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Olive oil

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. 

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Pineapple

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.

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Apples

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.

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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.

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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.

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Dark chocolate

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.

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Brown rice

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.

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Grapes

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.

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Cherries

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.

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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.

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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.

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Broccoli

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.

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Fish

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.

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Soy protein

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.

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Mushrooms

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.

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Sauerkraut

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.

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Avocados

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.

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Beans

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.

Sources
Medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, on September 21, 2019