13+ Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Fighting Pain

Experts say these anti-inflammatory foods may help you beat pain and find relief.

By Reader's Digest Editors
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    Coffee

    One cup of black coffee can provide relief from headaches and provide more antioxidants than a serving of berries. Preliminary research has also shown that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of some cancers.

    Cherries

    Cherries help reduce inflammation by neutralizing free radicals in the body and can also help to stop tissue inflammation. Anthocyanins, which give tart cherries their deep red color, have anti-inflammatory properties similar to those in aspirin. Raspberries and, to a lesser extent, strawberries also contain pain-fighting anthocyanins.

    Olive Oil

    Here's a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient that's comparable to over the counter pain medications. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil helps reduce the risk of strokes and some cancers.

    Sage

    This anti-inflammatory herb has also been shown in some research to boost memory. Perfect in poultry dishes, sage has been used for centuries and contains flavonoids that help to reduce swelling.

    Ginger

    Ginger's been used for thousands of years to help with a variety of ailments from stomachaches to heart conditions. This anti-inflammatory add-in is excellent on a variety of foods, even tea.

    Green Tea

    Used for centuries for a variety of medicinal purposes, green tea is an excellent source of polyphenols which may help to reduce free radicals in the body which can cause inflammation.

    Salmon

    Filled with Omega-3s, salmon provides an excellent source of protein and antioxidants. The fatty acids from this fish can help to lubricate tight joints in the body.

    Cayenne

    Cayenne is thought to act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Capsaicin, the oily compound in cayenne and its peppery cousins, is the active ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter creams, ointments, and patches for arthritis and muscle pain.

    Cinnamon

    Like many other spices, cinnamon has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it's actually one of the most powerful healing spices, shown to help reduce heartburn and other conditions.

    Cloves

    Cloves contain an anti-inflammatory chemical called eugenol. In recent studies, this chemical inhibited COX-2, a protein that spurs inflammation (the same protein that so-called COX-2 inhibitor drugs such as Celebrex quash). Cloves also ranked very high in antioxidant properties in one study. The combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties provides health benefits, from boosting protection from heart disease to helping stave off cancer, as well as slowing the cartilage and bone damage caused by arthritis.

    Turmeric

    Studies have linked turmeric to reduced inflammation in a number of conditions, including psoriasis. The chemical responsible for turmeric's golden color, called curcumin, is considered a top anticancer agent, helping to quell the inflammation that contributes to tumor growth and working in much the same way as broccoli and cauliflower to clear carcinogens away before they can damage cellular DNA and to repair already damaged DNA.

    Garlic

    Garlic has proven anti-inflammatory properties, and could be useful in relieving uncomfortable psoriasis outbreaks.

    Soy

    People with knee pain reported less discomfort and used fewer pain meds after eating soy protein every day for three months, according to Oklahoma State University research. Soy is rich in isoflavones, plant hormones with anti-inflammatory properties.

    Pineapple

    Though scientific data is limited, some experts believe consuming pineapple may defend against osteoarthritis and possibly improve symptoms. The pineapple enzyme bromelain is thought to alleviate swelling associated with osteoarthritis, because this compound has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity in laboratory research.

    Your Comments

    • Pepita Jimenez-Jacobs

      I didn’t find citrus fruits listed in your list of anti-inflammatory foods. Why?

    • slimblonde

      Amazingly to me, Cherries are strongly advised, as a matter of fact, in number one spot, is the best thing for gout. As far as I know it has worked. As a diabetic, I’ve been using canned, drained cherries in sugar free cherry jello as the best way to get my cherries and grow fingernails at a rapid pace. They are delicious.

      • Michelle Rouet

        You can also buy sour cherry juice. It is unsweetened, but, still sweet because the cherry is sweet. I was told by several physical therapists that they have a bowl of cherries in their office every day they are in season, and sour cherry juice when they aren’t. It is a natural anti inflammatory, and pain reliever as well as for gout.