Text by: Eunice Beatrice Braga
When people talk about eating their pain away, they usually mean wiping out a tub ice cream or a bar of chocolate to cure heartbreak. Others take it to mean having a glass of wine at the end of the day to ease a headache. But most people find relief only when they reach for a pill or use rubs to alleviate any aches.
The next time you feel pain, though, you might want to head for your refrigerator instead of going to the medicine cabinet.
Here are a few superfoods you should stock on that can serve as alternatives to your usual pop of paracetamol or ibuprofen:
- A cherry on top. Aside from being a great addition to ice cream sundaes, cherries can also help with arthritis and muscle pain. In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, participants who ate 45 Bing cherries every day for 28 days had lower inflammation levels. A University of Vermont study also showed that a cherry juice drink can reduce symptoms of muscle damage among exercising men. You can store fresh cherries in the freezer, for a cool, tart snack, or throw them into a blender with some bananas and yogurt, and turn it into a smoothie.
- Better with ginger. Most Filipinos are familiar with the healing properties of ginger, thanks to the salabat that our moms, aunts, and grandmothers had us drink to relieve our sore throats. But that’s not all this helpful rhizome can do. Ginger can also help relieve pain caused by migraines and sore muscles. Prevention.com recommends having ¼ teaspoon of ginger daily, which you can get by making salabat, adding ginger to stir-fries, or even making ginger lemonade.
- The perfect cup. Much has been said about the health benefits of coffee, from giving your brain a boost, to exfoliating dry skin. As it turns out, your favorite morning drink is also a painkiller. Studies have shown that coffee works well with painkillers such as aspirin and acetaminophen, but it can also fight pain on its own. A University of Georgia study found that two cups of coffee can help reduce exercise-induced pain by up to 50%. So the next time a workout has left your muscles sore, grab a cup of coffee and let the caffeine work its magic.
- A fruit-ful solution. Papaya might be more well-known for being one of the key ingredients in whitening soaps, but it also contains papain, an enzyme that combats pain and swelling. One cup of papaya can help relieve body and back pain caused by overexertion. The next time you feel that twinge in your back after a long day at work, you can treat yourself to a fresh fruit salad or even an ice-cold smoothie.
- Spice it up! Turmeric gives curry its distinct color and your painful joints a rest. A substance in turmeric, curcumin, is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Prevention.com recommends a daily dose of one tablespoon. If you’re not a fan of curry or of Indian food in general, you can incorporate turmeric into your diet by adding it to salads, soups, or vegetables. Prevention.com also recommends pairing turmeric with black pepper, as the piperine in black pepper releases the curcumin in the turmeric.
- Bean there, done that. Beans have a bad rap with foodies, either because of the fact that they can be quite tricky to cook or because they give you gas, but beans can help prevent heartburn. A study in Gut, a leading journal in gastroenterology, found that those who had high-fiber food like beans were 20% less likely to have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). With beans, you can keep that burning sensation in your chest from making a repeat appearance.
- Sure with soy. Regardless of its form—edamame, tofu burgers, or soy milk—including soy in your diet will help cut osteoarthritis knee pain significantly. A study from the Oklahoma State University found that having 40 grams of soy protein everyday reduced the use of pain medication by half. What makes soy effective is the presence of isoflavones, which are plant hormones that have anti-inflammatory properties. The only downside to soy might be the waiting time, as you’ll need two to three weeks before it takes effect.
- Paste to paste. Tahini is a spread made from sesame seeds, and features in North African, Greek, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s also a balm for a raging headache. Tahini contains magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant, which also makes it perfect for muscle pain. The next time you feel a headache building, take a break and enjoy tahini on whole grain toast.
- A bowl for your bowels. If you’re suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, yogurt can help ease your stomach pain. A yogurt brand with live and active cultures can help reduce pain, inflammation, and bloating, and can also give your immune system a much-needed boost.
- Go nuts over trail mix. Ladies, listen up—the next time premenstrual syndrome (PMS) hits, reach for a pack of trail mix instead for anything chocolatey, salty, or fattening. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that women who had a high intake of riboflavin (which can be found in almonds) were over 30% less likely to have cramps than those who had lower intakes. In addition to almonds, pistachios can also help reduce fluid retention caused by PMS.
These superfoods are just at the top of the list—there are a lot of food items that can help with everyday aches and twinges. Pain can be difficult to manage, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible task. With the help of these superfoods, popping pills for pain relief may just become a thing of the past.