Remedies for chronic pain can range from doing light stretches to rubbing a topical cream on the area that’s hurting the most. While these solutions alleviate discomfort, a healthy and balanced diet also keeps aches and pains at bay. Why? Foods packed with nutrients help reduce inflammation, which is key for preventing pain in your knees and back. Plus, they’re delicious enough to snack on or incorporate into your holiday meals. Take a look at these six foods to learn how science reveals their nutritional benefits for easing chronic pain.
Nuts produce anti-stiffness protein.
If you feel young at heart but your knees, shoulders, or other joints won’t stop complaining, noshing on nuts can put the spring back in your step, report investigators at Harvard University. Turns out your body uses the plant fats in nuts to produce adiponectin, a protein that quashes damaging tissue inflammation, cutting stiffness, and pain in half if you snack on 2 ounces of nuts daily.
Cocoa opens vessels for blood flow.
The key to staying limber and recovering quickly from injuries is good blood flow to muscles and joints — and cocoa can help! In a study at Northwestern University in Illinois, cocoa relaxed and opened blood vessels, significantly boosting the circulation of healing, oxygen-rich blood to tissues, reducing pain and making subjects feel more comfortable and limber for up to 24 hours per tasty serving.
Green beans calm overactive pain nerves.
Long after a strained back or other injury heals, you may still feel sore if pain nerves have become sensitive and overactive. Green beans to the rescue! Scientists in the journal Molecules say this holiday favorite brims with compounds (flavonoids) that calm overactive pain nerves and restore healthy nerve cell signaling, cutting soreness by 40 percent if you enjoy a heaping cup daily.
Potatoes activate fix-it genes.
Snacking on crispy fries or a steamy baked potato is a comforting chilly-day treat. And research published in Nutrients suggests eating one potato (with the skin) daily kickstarts repair and replacement of damaged muscle tissue as effectively as exercise. Potatoes’ mix of plant proteins, magnesium, and potassium activates genes that repair muscle cells.
Oranges encourage cartilage repair.
Sweet, juicy citrus is finally in season — and research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says snacking on one tasty orange daily could halve your risk of joint stiffness and pain. The credit goes to a pigment in oranges called beta-cryptoxanthin, which nourishes, heals, and strengthens the shock absorbing cartilage in joints.
Olive oil turns off pain enzymes.
Dipping crusty bread in extra-virgin olive oil or drizzling it on meals can bring welcome relief from even chronic aches and pains. That’s the word from scientists studying out of Australia, who say this oil contains a rare plant compound (oleocanthal) that switches off the pain-triggering COX-2 enzyme as effectively as ibuprofen. Add 2 tablespoons to your daily diet, and you’ll boost your flexibility and mobility by 35 percent.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.