Living With Chronic Pain

Eating For Less Pain

Researchers have identified certain foods that can help control inflammation. Many of them are found in the so-called Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fish, vegetables and olive oil, among other staples. As we discussed last week, diet can decrease systemic inflammation, which then decreases chronic pain. Here are some ideas on how to accomplish that goal.

Get Fishy

Certain types of fish are rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6, two inflammatory proteins in your body.

How much: At least 3 to 4 ounces, twice a week
Best sources: Salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and other cold-water fish

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which support the immune system, the body’s natural defense system, and helps fight inflammation.

How much: At least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of veggies per meal 
Best sources: Colorful foods such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale and broccoli

Try a Handful of Nuts or Seeds

Nuts are full of inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat, protein and filling fiber, too – a bonus if you’re trying to lose a few pounds.

How much: Eat 1.5 ounces of nuts daily (about a handful) 
Best sources: Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds

Break out the Beans

Beans have several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. They’re a low-cost source of fiber, protein, folic acid and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.

How much: At least one cup, twice a week 
Best sources: Try pinto, black, red kidney and garbanzo beans

Pour on the Olive Oil

Olive oil contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and oleocanthal, a compound that can lower inflammation and pain.

How much: Two to three tablespoons per day for cooking or in salad dressings or other dishes 
Best sources: Extra virgin olive oil is less refined and processed. It retains more nutrients than standard varieties. For optimal freshness and quality, opt for oils packaged in dark bottles with a certification or seal (COOC, North American Olive Oil Seal, DOP) and harvest date close to the purchase date.

Peel Some Onions

Onions are packed with beneficial antioxidants. They also reduce inflammation, heart disease risk and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Try them sautéed, grilled or raw in salads, stir-fries, whole-wheat pasta dishes or sandwiches.

Nightshades or Not?

Nightshade vegetables -eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes – are central to Mediterranean cuisine. Some people believe they trigger arthritis flares, but there’s limited scientific evidence to support this theory. If you think this is the case, try cutting nightshades from your diet for two weeks to see if symptoms improve.

Fill up on Fiber

Fiber lowers C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance in the blood that indicates inflammation. Getting fiber from foods lowers CRP levels more than taking fiber supplements. Foods that have carotenoids, the antioxidants that give carrots, peppers and some fruits their color, are quite good at lowering CRP. Check out these recipes for high fiber recipe ideas.

These ideas can help you build fiber into your day:


Add a handful of berries and a couple of tablespoons of almonds to your cereal. That alone could give you 10 to 12 grams of fiber. Prefer a breakfast smoothie? Blend a banana, a cup of berries , a teaspoon of flaxseed and some greens with your favorite milk for an extra 15 to 20 grams of fiber.


Add a slice of avocado instead of cheese to your sandwich for an easy 5 to 6 grams of fiber. Top it with spinach and add a side of fruit to get even more.


Swap white pasta for whole wheat, and add garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds or blueberries to your salad. You can get to 20 to 30 grams quickly. You can even get your daily dose in one meal.

Avoid Processed Food

Processed foods such as cookies, chips and other snacks can be high in unhealthy fats, which are linked with inflammation. Opt for fresh fruit instead. Canned goods – vegetables and soups for example- are often high in sodium, which boosts blood pressure. Look for low sodium options, or go with fresh or frozen vegetables.

Add color

The food pyramid many of us grew up with has been replaced with a colorful plate that emphasizes proper proportions. One important message: Fill half your meal with vegetables. Adding any or all of these ideas to your daily diet can have an impact on chronic pain. Plus it’ll encourage healthier eating habits too.

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