The Pain-Fighting Shopping List

Anti-inflammatory foods are nature's potent pain relievers.
PUBLISHED May 18, 2015
Amanda Bontempo, MS RD CSO CDN is a registered dietitian and board certified in oncology nutrition, having received a bachelor's of science degree and master's of science degree from New York University. She has worked in oncology for over five years and consults with progressive health and technology companies in New York City. She's passionate about food and an equal lover of kale and chocolate. Follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaBontempo and Instagram @amandabonbon.
I often write about the effects of system-wide inflammation and how diet can influence our ability to control this detrimental chronic state. I’ve also written about the power of anti-inflammatory foods, many of which are nature’s potent pain relievers. Though we have every intention of making healthy changes to our diet, we often fall back on familiar staples. Anti-inflammatory food items abound market shelves, we just need a discerning eye to identify them. They often taste better and can also make a big difference for your body. Try some of these simple swaps for a pain-relieving pantry.

Instead of...

Balsamic vinegar: There’s nothing inherently bad or harmful about balsamic vinegar. In fact it tends to be one of my favorites but many brands are actually "condiment" balsamic vinegar, which is little more than white vinegar, caramel color and added sugars. Other seemingly quality or artisanal brands or varieties still have added sugar, corn syrup and coloring.

Try...

Raw apple cider vinegar: The fermentation process in raw apple cider vinegar creates beneficial bacteria and enzymes that reduce inflammation. Look for "cold pressed" brands with sediment at the bottom. Use in marinades, salad dressings or even create a daily tonic by added two tablespoons to eight ounces of water.

Instead of...

Ketchup: Ketchup has become a ubiquitously American flavor and we put it on everything but it contains a lot of added sugars, preservatives and “natural” flavors.

Try...

Homemade: I have yet to find a healthy commercial alternative so I prefer to make a batch of my own with tomato puree, raw apple cider vinegar, onion powder and finely grated carrot for a mild sweetness.

Instead of...

Sriracha sauce: There was a point where I literally could not get enough of Sriracha sauce and tasty as it may be, sriracha contains added sugars and salt which can cause inflammation and bloating.

Try...

Ginger and turmeric: Ginger and turmeric both add a natural spicy quality while reducing inflammation. Turmeric contains a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, curcumin, which has shown to be as effective as ibuprofen! Ginger boasts antioxidant compounds that relieve muscle pain, inflammation and swelling.

Melinda’s: Melinda’s habanero hot sauce by the Figueroa Brothers is a personal favorite made with no added sugars and very little salt — they use a truly natural vegetable base.

Tabasco: Tabasco original red has only three ingredients: distilled vinegar, red pepper and very little salt.

Instead of...

Sugar and artificial sweeteners: Added sugars and refined carbohydrates that quickly turn to sugars result in cravings, overeating, metabolic disorders, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, weight gain, fatty liver and inflammation. White sugar is a prime offender in stimulating the release of inflammatory cytokines. Artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiota, resulting in a puffy tummy, difficulty losing weight and a potential change in immunity. Artificial sweeteners, especially in beverages, confuse the brain into thinking that our body is going to need to metabolize the anticipated sweetness and therefore releases a host of inflammatory signals.

Try...

Maple syrup: Natural maple syrup has one of the lowest percentages of fructose to sucrose of all natural sweeteners resulting in a more sensible absorption and metabolic response.

Instead of...

Bread: Everyone constantly wants to know if I eat bread and what kind. Bread is a staple in most households and seems to come in an endless variety. More often than not, however, the common bread that we know is made with wheat flour (and yes, even whole wheat flour), commercial yeast, chemical and bromated bleachers and conditioners, artificial colorings and flavorings, “natural” flavorings, preservatives, added sugars and other additives — it's nutritionally inferior.

Try...

Sprouted grain breads: Often made with both sprouted whole grains and legumes for a well-rounded protein profile. Most sprouted grain breads also tend to limit ingredients to the natural few that are necessary for bread production. The lack of preservatives means it should be kept in the freezer.

Sourdough: The slowly fermented sourdough bread from your local baker or farmers’ market, even if it’s made with less-than-desirable white flour, is actually superior to the industrial stuff. It’s made with a starter rich in Lactobacillus probiotics and it has a lower glycemic index, which prevents a powerful spike in insulin.

Instead of...

Peanuts: While peanuts and peanut butter can still be eaten in moderation as they provide healthy monounsaturated fats, their soft porous shells expose them to pesticides and fungicides used in production. They’re also a common allergen high in omega-6 fatty acids with almost no inflammation fighting omega-3 to balance it off.

Try...

Tree nuts: I still prefer almonds, cashews, walnuts and their respective butters because of their more desirable fatty-acid profiles. Any type of nut butter should be devoid of added sugars, hydrogenated oils or other additives.

Flax seeds and chia seeds: These actually have a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 for inflammation-fighting power.

Instead of...

Cow’s milk: Cow’s milk is loaded with antibiotics and naturally-occurring and added growth hormones. Plus, close to 65% of us have some lactose sensitivity.

Try...

Almond milk: More often than not fortified, almond milk provides more calcium than cow’s milk in addition to providing protein and magnesium.

Instead of...

Cow’s milk cheese: While easier to stomach than milk because it has less lactose, cow’s milk cheese has more casein which can can cause an inflammatory response in many sensitive individuals.

Try...

Goat cheese: Cheeses made from goat’s milk has lower lactose and casein, which improves overall tolerance to the products.

Instead of...

Corn oil: Corn oil is packed with inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, which, in excess, cause vascular stiffening.

Try...

Olive oil: Cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in addition to other anti-inflammatory polyphenols to help protect our tissues from oxidative stress and damage.

Follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaBontempo and Instagram @AmandaBonBon
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