Can Food Ease the Ache?

Milk and cookies, chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes with gravy — they’re called comfort foods because they make you feel better, at least emotionally. But can food really ease pain?

Researchers are chewing on the subject, and their findings may someday make for a tasty prescription. “We’re not at the point where you’re going to go into a physician’s office and be prescribed tofu for your pain,” says Jill Tall, PhD, a professor at Youngstown State University in Ohio, who has studied how food helps relieve discomfort. “But I do believe that as an adjunct to traditional therapies, there are some possibilities.” Some promising edible antidotes:

Cherries for pain reliefcomstockcomplete.comCherries have anti-inflammatory properties similar to those in aspirin.

Cherries. Anthocyanins, which give tart cherries their deep red color, have anti-inflammatory properties similar to those in aspirin, says Muraleedharan Nair, PhD, a food-safety researcher at Michigan State University. The benefit hasn’t yet been studied in humans, so we don’t know the optimal doses, but barring any health problems, such as diabetes or acid indigestion, why not pick a few berries this summer? (Raspberries and, to a lesser extent, strawberries also contain pain-fighting anthocyanins.)

Soy. It may help relieve some osteoarthritis pain. In a study of 135 men and women, those who took 40 grams of soy protein a day for three months improved their range of motion and reported fewer aches. Men saw the most benefit. It’s still not clear exactly how soy helps, but the isoflavones are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects, says Srinivasa N. Raja, MD, a pain-management specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Caveat: You’d have to eat a ridiculous amount of edamame to reach 40 grams a day, so try adding soy protein powder to shakes.

Sugar. The sweet stuff can reduce the perception of pain, especially in children. Studies show when we consume sugar — sucrose, better known as table sugar, in particular — we hurt less. It seems to enhance our body’s natural pain-relief system. But we all know the unhealthy effects of too much sugar, including an expanding waistline, so make sure you don’t overindulge with this tasty sweetener.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram

@kristencarney

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.

@sixthformpoet

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”

@NicCageMatch

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 
—Alcohol

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy