Skip to main content

That pain might be from your diet

We all want to perform at our best—whether it’s at work, at the gym or playing with our kids. But one of the biggest issues that many people face is chronic inflammation. Inflammation can cause pain and fatigue that can hold you back.

“Inflammation is more than the swollen finger you hit with a hammer or the toe you stubbed,” said Dana M. Alexander, a dietitian at Geisinger. “When we don’t take care of our bodies, we can develop chronic inflammation, which can show up throughout the entire body, leading to joint pain, weight gain and even diseases like Alzheimer’s or heart disease.” 

Believe it or not, inflammation is often a good thing—it’s how your immune system alerts your body that there’s an issue that needs to be taken care of. There are many different things that can cause inflammation, but a contributing factor is often found in the typical American diet, with foods that are rich in fat and salt. 

“French fries and soda might be delicious, but too much of these foods can leave you feeling achy, tired and out of sorts,” said Alexander. “Research points to inflammation causing chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia and diabetes.”

The good news is that inflammation can be reduced by selecting foods with anti-inflammatory properties. 

Here are eight foods that can help you reduce inflammation. 

Berries (mostly blueberries)
These little superfoods can pack a punch when it comes to reducing inflammation. 

“Berries, especially blueberries, are full of vitamins and antioxidants called flavonoids that can help fight inflammation,” said Alexander. “They also have chemicals that help regulate your immune system, which can reduce chronic inflammation.” 

Green tea
Beating inflammation is as easy as a cup of tea. Tea has antioxidants called catechins, reduce inflammation. Green tea contains EGCG, the most powerful type of catechin. Other teas have this effect too, but green tea has the most benefits.

Beets
The humble beet has its benefits. Studies show that beets can decrease inflammation and other risk factors for chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Broccoli
Broccoli and other vegetables in the cruciferous family are all high in vitamin K. Some research suggests that vitamin K can help regulate inflammation in the body by affecting as many as 14 different causes of inflammation. Unfortunately, most of us do not get enough vitamin K in our diets. There are two types of vitamin K—one that is found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and one that is found in liver and eggs. 

Dark chocolate
“When most people think of chocolate, they think of it as a treat instead of a health food,” said Alexander. “But, cocoa contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar levels. Make sure to get chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao for the highest amounts of antioxidants.”

Wild salmon
When it comes to inflammation, you’ll hear about omega-3 fatty acids. Fish, especially salmon, is a great source of omega-3s—it contains two different types, DHA and EPA. Omega-3s are a type of nutrient that can help reduce inflammation and ease joint pain. 

Ginger
Ginger is more than just a side to sushi or an ingredient in tea; ginger has benefits of its own, too. Ginger contains chemicals that are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Studies show that it helps ease severe inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, too.

Turmeric
While it may not be familiar to many Americans, turmeric is popular in Asia—particularly in India.

Turmeric is a yellow spice that has many health benefits. One of the chemicals in turmeric inhibits chronic inflammatory signals in the body. This eases inflammation, which can prevent joint damage, arthritis, heart disease and liver damage.

For more information, visit Geisinger.org.
 
Woman smiling eating broccoli