Drop that pain reliever. That’s the news from scientists in the U.S., Italy, Spain and Australia who say that extra virgin olive oil has the ability to help reduce pain and inflammation—among other health benefits. Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia identified an antioxidant called aleocanthal, which is found only in extra virgin olive oil. This antioxidant has the uncanny ability to inhibit the cyclooxygenas (Cox) enzyme that incites pain and inflammation—much in the way ibuprofen does.
Likewise, Italian researchers say that the phenols in extra virgin olive oil provide extra antioxidant power as well as anti-inflammatory, chemopreventive and anti-cancer benefits. Scientists from Spain add that extra virgin olive oil supports healthy aging and increased longevity. Australian researchers say that extra virgin olive oil is also antimicrobial—to fight off certain bacteria. Other benefits of extra virgin olive oil include helping to maintain a leaner body weight, to support brain and mental health, healthy blood sugar, joint health and heart health. Just a few spoonfuls a day is all it takes.
Cherries can also help reduce pain. In fact, research out of Michigan State University says that the anthocyanins in cherries (and other berries like blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries) that give them their rich color also help relieve pain more effectively than aspirin does. Anthocyanins inhibit cylcooxygenase-1 and -2 in a way that’s similar to how anti-inflammatory drugs work.
Muralee Nair, Ph.D., professor at Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources and lead researcher of the studies, says that cherries are “as good as ibuprofen and some of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.” Nair said that his lab results indicate that consuming 20 tart cherries could provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Cherries can also reduce uric acid levels, help ease pain after workouts and are a great source of vitamin C, potassium and boron—a mineral that supports bone health.
But wait…there’s more. You might be surprised to know that there are more than 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery and celery seeds, including one called apigenin. Similarly, ginger reduces pain-causing prostaglandin levels in the body, while turmeric is more effective than steroid meds for acute inflammation.
Eating salmon, mackerel, herring and other fatty fish can help, too. The omega-3s found in fish convert to hormone-like substances that support healthy inflammation levels and decrease pain. Dr. Alfred Steinberg, a National Institute of Health arthritis expert, says fish oil is an anti-inflammatory agent. It acts directly on the immune system by suppressing 40 to 55 percent of the release of cytokines—compounds that damage joints.
Other foods to enjoy include flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, raw walnuts, walnut oil, grapes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, avocados, grapefruit, oranges, apricots, anchovies, sardines, high omega-3 eggs, nectarines, tangerines, papayas, peaches, plums, watermelon, nuts and seeds, apples, bell peppers and cranberries.
What a delicious way to go beyond pain relievers!