Can you fix a torn ACL with healthy eating and a change in diet? Well…not exactly.

However, if you have arthritis, back issues, or a variety of aches and pains, paying attention to your nutrition can lead to reduced inflammation and reduced pain. Inflammation on its own is not necessarily evil; it is your body’s attempt to defend itself against various enemies, such as illness, infection, or injury. 

Something goes wrong, and intrepid white blood cells rush to save the day. The problem occurs when they refuse to leave, and your immune system stays in fight mode. 

Many painful conditions are exacerbated by a diet full of foods that promote inflammation rather than alleviate it. As Dr. Fred Tabung, a visiting researcher with the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, says, “A lot of chronic pain is the result of chronic inflammation, and the evidence is quite strong that your diet can contribute to increased systemic inflammation.” 

This is probably the point where you are hoping to be urged to adopt an all-sugar, high-fat, all-dairy diet, right? Sorry — that is the last thing you should do! 

Read on for a list of the heroic foods that can help lessen your pain as well as those villainous foods which will do the complete opposite.

Eat more of these foods:

Vegetables: Try to eat 8-9 servings of vegetables a day, and make sure that you eat as many varied colors as possible since they all have different nutrients and benefits. Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, are particularly beneficial to your health.

Fruits, especially dark and colorful fruits: These are not quite as healthy as vegetables because they do include natural sugar, but fruits such as blueberries, apples, and tart cherries are known as anti-inflammatory foods, which are high in natural antioxidants.

Extra virgin olive oil or canola oil: Multiple studies have proven that olive oil contains oleocanthal, which prevents the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes. 

Whole grains: A 2018 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that a whole grain diet reduces systemic inflammation. Whole grains include whole oats, whole rye, buckwheat, cracked wheat, barley, quinoa, and brown rice. 

Turmeric and ginger: Turmeric contains a chemical called curcumin, which is the main spice in curry, that is commonly used to alleviate pain and inflammation. The US Association for the Study of Pain reports that eating raw and heat-treated ginger daily “resulted in moderate to large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury.” This doesn’t sound especially palatable, but grated ginger on a salad is delicious, and ginger tea is quite refreshing as well!

Eat fewer of these foods:

Carbs: Our bodies quickly turn carbohydrates into sugar, which (sadly) is not advised.

Dairy products: The Arthritis Foundation warns against cheese and other full-fat dairy products that cause inflammation but recommends foods such as yogurt in moderation. 

Processed foods with refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup: According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average American consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day — 11 teaspoons more than we should be consuming. You may not always realize that you are ingesting sugar because it is routinely added to processed or packaged foods. Make sure to read labels and look for foods that include fewer than 4 grams of added sugar per serving. 

Red meat and processed meats: The red meats consumed the most in the United States are beef, pork, veal, and lamb. Processed meats include hot dogs, pepperoni, pastrami, deli meats, and beef jerky (all the fun stuff!). Studies show that these lead to a variety of health issues, including inflammation and pain. 

You probably don’t want to go cold turkey on quitting the foods you love (although turkey is generally lower in saturated fat than beef!), but you can definitely wean yourself off them and be more intentional in your consumption habits. 

By following a Mediterranean diet, including the healthy foods above, you will lessen inflammation, but you will also be likely to lose weight, which is another way to reduce pain. Obesity — or even just a few extra pounds — can place excess strain on your joints. 

Ask one of our expert physical therapists at True Sports how nutrition can help you reduce your pain level. The therapists at True Sports pride themselves on their accessibility and knowledge. 

Make an appointment at one of our seven convenient locations in the Greater Baltimore area: 

Contact Us: (410) 946-1672