Sore muscles? Backache, neck pain or headaches? Yes you can pop over-the-counter pain medications but what if you could help ease the pain with a few simple changes in your diet? Here’s a list of 6 “superfoods” that can actually help with chronic pain. Most of these foods are items you probably already have in your kitchen and are easy to add to your daily menu. As always, if you’re pregnant or have an illness that’s being treated by a doctor, always check with your physician first.
GINGER Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols which can help reduce pain and inflammation. In the journal Arthritis, a new study compared ginger to cortisone and ibuprofen for the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In a Danish study, ginger eased chronic stiffness and achiness for 63% of people within a week. Backaches and neck pain can be kept at bay by flavoring recipes with 1 teaspoon of ginger daily. Ginger can also help with stomach problems like motion sickness, colic, gas, diarrhea, nausea and menstrual cramps.
Ways you can add ginger to your diet…
Add chopped fresh ginger to soups, stews, stir-fries, and other recipes
Add fresh ginger to a juicer while making juices, or add to smoothies.
Chopped fresh ginger can be added to water and boiled in a pot for about 45 minutes. Drink it warm or with ice. You can also add a bit of honey or stevia.
OLIVE OIL Olive oil has a compound called oleocanthal that switches off pain-triggering COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes as effectively as ibuprofen. Scientists at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington suggest that by drizzling 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil on meals daily, it can actually ease chronic pain in just 2 weeks. A bonus…the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids that are considered a healthy dietary fat. It’s also full of polyphenols which helps protect your cells from damage. It can also help lower cholesterol and control insulin levels in the body and help lower some heart risks. There are also ongoing studies of how it can help with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ways you can add olive oil to your diet…
Drizzle it over salad or mix it into salad dressings.
Use in marinades or sauces for meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables.
Drizzle over cooked pasta or vegetables.
Two of my favorite ways to use olive oil…
Toast baguette slices under the broiler, rub lightly with a cut clove of garlic and add a little drizzle of olive oil.
For an easy but delicious bread dip (which means you can skip the butter), pour a little olive oil into a small side dish and add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, which will pool in the middle and look pretty.
SEAFOOD Seafood can help soothe back pain, neck pain and chronic headaches, plus cut the ache of allover joint stiffness in half because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Think tuna, shrimp, anchovies, herring, sardines and salmon (wild salmon has more omega-3s than farmed). Researchers at the Inflammation Research Foundation in Marblehead, Massachusetts also credit omega-3 fatty acids with helping ease internal inflammation. Research also shows strong evidence that omega-3 can also help lower triglycerides and blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and more. A 6-ounce serving of seafood three times a week has been shown to alleviate back pain, chronic headaches and neck pain for 60% of people.
BLACK BEANS Black beans are rich in magnesium and potassium – minerals that help relax muscle tension and improve blood flow to speed the healing of damaged tissues. They are an excellent remedy for over-worked muscles. A study in The Journal of Pain suggests that eating 1/2 cup per day can cut the incidence of cramps, spasms and soreness by 33%. They are also high in fiber and a good source of plant-based protein. Decreased levels of magnesium have been shown to be related to high blood pressure, kidney stones, heart disease, fatigue and PMS syndrome. Potassium is an essential mineral for normal growth, to stimulate nerve impulses for muscle contraction and preserve proper alkalinity of the body fluid and regulate the water balance and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues. So eat your beans.
Ways you can add black beans to your diet…
Make soup or puree black beans and add to soups and stews as a thickener.
Make dips or salsa.
Eat as a side. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder or cilantro for added flavor. I like raw chopped red onion on mine.
Make burgers with pureed black beans, add to wraps, tacos, or burritos.
Also good with eggs, added to rice dishes, salads, or chili.
LAVENDER TEA A simple mug of steaming lavender tea can help relieve minor headaches or muscle aches in as little as 5 minutes, according to a Korean research team. Why? Because the aroma of lavender boosts the brain’s production of alpha waves, which are electrical impulses that calm sensitive pain nerves. Lavender also helps with upset stomachs, insomnia, migraines, and nerve pain. Lavender contains an oil that seems to have sedating effects and might relax certain muscles. Not only can you make a lavender tea, you can also add it to bath water to treat circulation disorders and improve mental well-being. You can buy lavender teas at the grocery store or make your own by adding fresh lavender to a tea ball or sachet and steeping in hot water for about 20 minutes. Just smelling lavender oil can make you feel good too.
PINEAPPLE Pineapple contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain. New research shows that bromelain soothes your cells by reducing the migration of white blood cells to site of inflammation, like injured muscles and arthritic joints. Stanford University researchers report that nibbling on 1 cup of pineapple a day can soothe sore muscles in as little as 10 days. It can also help with headaches.