We’ve talked about how inflammation contributes to pain. Normally it’s a natural and much-needed response that allows our body to heal itself. When inflammation occurs, specific pro-inflammatory hormones signal white blood cells to clear away any infection or damaged tissue. But when inflammation becomes uncontrolled, it causes damage. This is what happens when someone has rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy joints, causing inflammation and harm.
We’ve discussed in several previous post that some foods can reduce inflammation, while others increase it. Some fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants known as flavonoids. These substances inhibit damage to specific cell types and consequently help reduce inflammation by protecting the fluid within those cells. ORAC (oxygen radical absorptive capacity) is a way to measure antioxidant levels in fruits and vegetables. According to ORAC, of all the fruits, the antioxidant measurements in berries are one of the highest; their beneficial effect on inflammation and cell damage is impressive.
Berries are also packed with natural anthocyanins, which are the chemical components that give berries their intense color. This natural chemical is helpful because it cleans out the damaging free-radical molecules that can cause inflammation and pain. Berries are so packed with this beneficial natural chemical that they out-perform all other fruits and vegetables in their ability to clean out free-radicals. Even more powerful than their number one vegetable counterpart- broccoli.
Berries are delicious fresh or added to any food, including yogurt, granola, salads, or parfaits. You can also make a delicious smoothie. Smoothies are a great, quick option for busy people in the morning, or as a tasty snack. You could even add just a little less water to the blender and instead of making a smoothie, it’ll turn into a desert similar to ice cream, but without the inflammatory qualities of dairy.
They can also be mixed into meals such as oatmeal and cereals to add flavor, instead of sugar. Or infused into water. Just add fresh or frozen berries for flavor and you’ll have a delicious, healthy, and pain reducing option to sip on throughout the day.
Ways to incorporate berries into your diet
- ¾ cup unsweetened 100% orange or pineapple juice
- ½ cup fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt
- 1 cup frozen, unsweetened blueberries
- You can even add peanut for a unique taste and added protein
- Blend all ingredients well in blender and drink!
Try blueberries instead of syrup to top whole-grain waffles.
Mix different berries. Combining various sources of antioxidant-rich foods provides not only a variety of tastes to your meals, but extra health benefits as well.
Whip up some overnight oats with mixed berries, cinnamon, bananas, walnuts (or other nuts for increased impact on pain), and vanilla.
Make a fruit salsa with blueberries, strawberries, onion, lime zest, and cilantro. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender and serve with pita or corn chips, or use as a topper for fish or chicken.
Dip blueberries in Greek yogurt and freeze on wax paper. Have a handful when you’re hungry and feel like a cool treat.
Don’t forget to add berries to your next grocery list. Fresh or frozen they are a delicious way to help relieve pain.