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Top 12 Foods that Fight Inflammation and Pain

Malic acid in apples helps to reduce fibromyalgia pain

The following article is an excerpt from my new book, PAIN ERASERS: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Safe, Drug-Free Relief, available in bookstores everywhere or online.

Some of the best healing remedies to overcome inflammation also taste fabulous—I can’t say that about any prescription medications I’ve come across. Plus, foods won’t cause the nasty side effects common to most pain medications. You’ve already learned about foods like chilis, ginger, and turmeric when they are used in their concentrated medicinal forms earlier in this book, but they also warrant a reminder here because they are among the best foods to fight pain. You also learned about many better options than the inflammation-causing foods mentioned earlier in this chapter, which I hope you’ll be adding to your diet. In addition to eating more of these foods, here are some of the other foods to fight inflammation and pain:


Rarely considered for their ability to reduce pain, apples contain a powerful compound called malic acid, which has been found to be effective against fibromyalgia pain, when they are eaten as part of a daily diet over a minimum of two months.


Often overlooked, blackberries offer impressive health benefits in addition to their delicious taste. According to research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, blackberries and their components, known as anthocyanins, help to prevent inflammatory disorders.


Blueberries are also excellent anti-inflammatory foods. They regulate the amounts of compounds called heat-shock proteins in the brain, thereby reducing inflammation linked to neurodegenerative disorders, according to a study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.


In a study published in the Spanish medical journal Nutricion Hospitalaria, researchers found that eating tart cherries was effective in the treatment of exercise-induced muscle damage and the inflammation accompanying it.

Dark Green Veggies

Veggies such as kale and spinach contain high amounts of alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium. Both minerals help balance body chemistry to alleviate inflammation. 


Fish, and the omega-3-rich oil it contains, acts directly on the immune system by suppressing the release of inflammation-causing cytokines—an underlying factor for most pain conditions. 

Flaxseeds and Flax Oil

Flaxseeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammatory substances. You can add ground flaxseeds to smoothies, top pancakes or French toast with them, or add them to many other foods. While they can be added to baked goods, they are best left unheated.

Olive Oil

The inclusion of olive oil is one of the reasons for the Mediterranean Diet’s many health benefits. That’s because olive oil is rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. Research in the journal Nutrients found that olive oil consumption reduced the markers of inflammation. Other research published in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that olive oil quashes pain similarly to NSAIDs. A powerful compound known as oleocanthal found in extra virgin olive oil inhibits inflammatory enzymes the same way drugs like Advil do. You can drizzle olive oil over your salads, roasted vegetables, or baked sweet potato. Just be sure not to heat it beyond its smoke point because it will no longer offer therapeutic benefits and may actually increase inflammation at that point.


Pomegranates help to alleviate joint pain and inflammation according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health. The researchers measured a beneficial effect of pomegranate fruit extract on markers of inflammation and cartilage degradation in arthritic joints, known as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs).

Pumpkin Seeds

Thanks to their rich omega-3 content, pumpkin seeds may be effective in the treatment of pain disorders, particularly those in which inflammation is a concern. A classic study published in the journal Pharmacological Research found that pumpkin seed oil yielded similar anti-inflammatory results as the pain drug indomethacin—without the side effects.


Strawberries aren’t just delicious; they also offer pain and inflammation relief. In a study published in the medical journal Nutrients, researchers found that eating strawberries regularly helped alleviate the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis in the knees. 


Like flax and pumpkin seeds, raw, unsalted walnuts contain plentiful amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that decrease pain and inflammation. If you’re like many people, you may be thinking that you don’t like walnuts, but I encourage you to try fresh ones kept in the refrigerator section of your local health food store as they have a rich, buttery taste, without the bitterness found in the rancid walnuts in many grocery stores.


This article is an excerpt from my new book, PAIN ERASERS: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Safe, Drug-Free Relief, available in bookstores everywhere or online. Consult the book for a full list of references cited in this article. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook 

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