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How Does Diet Affect Chronic Pain?

Chronic inflammation is a major contributor to both chronic and acute pain. And because our diets can play a significant role in both increasing or reducing inflammation, a healthy diet has the potential to decrease pain over time.

Evidence suggests foods rich in a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols can have an anti-inflammatory effect that helps soothe and prevent painful flare-ups.1 Foods that contain polyphenols can be found in many of the staples of the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet can be good for anyone, but it can be particularly beneficial for pain sufferers. If you have fibromyalgia, arthritis, muscle tension, digestive issues or any other chronic pain condition, you should give the Mediterranean diet a try.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The mediterranean diet is an incredibly healthy, natural diet that favours plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as nuts and olive oils, whole grains, fish and legumes. Many of these foods are rich in the micronutrients your immune system requires to function at a high level. Therefore, this diet can not only help with inflammation and weight loss, it can also help to promote long-term overall health.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

  • More energy
  • Weight loss will relieve pressure on sore joints
  • High in Omega-3’s and healthy fats
  • Can reduce inflammation
  • Can lead to lower blood sugar
  • Higher immune function
  • Elimination of processed foods
  • High intake of fruits and vegetables

Foods You Should Eat

While you are on the Mediterranean Diet, you should be focusing on eating fruits, vegetables and healthy fats (such as extra virgin olive oil) multiple times a day. Legumes and whole grains should be a priority at least once a day. Additionally, fish, nuts and seeds should be a staple multiple times per week. Unhealthy fats and refined sugars should be significantly limited and if possible, eliminated completely.

Healthy Fats

Not all fats are bad. It’s the trans fats and saturated fats in foods like butter, cream, desserts, pizza and chips that you should be mindful of. If consumed in excess, these types of fats can lead to high cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and many other health complications. Because of this, the Mediterranean diet doesn’t discourage fats, it just tells you to be mindful of the kinds of fats you eat. Focusing on unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids can actually lower your cholesterol, help you manage your weight and reduce inflammation. Some good fats to focus on are:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (especially in the place of butter)
  • Fish oil
  • Fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines)
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (flax, chia, hemp)

Mediterranean Diet

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are essential components of any healthy diet and the Mediterranean diet is no different. They are loaded with antioxidants, which have long been tied to reducing inflammation in the body. This makes them ideal for arthritis sufferers. Load up on these fruits and veggies on a daily basis:


  • Blackberries
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Tart cherries
  • Strawberries, kiwi, pineapple and cantaloupe (for Vitamin C)


  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Peas

Whole Grains

Unrefined, whole grains are a fundamental part of the Mediterranean diet. They are loaded with nutrients, including protein, antioxidants, vitamin b and fibre. If consumed correctly, they can lead to weight loss, heart health and boosted energy. Here are some grains to consider:

  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat

Certain Spices

There are certain spices you can focus on that have been tied to reducing inflammation in the body. The anti- inflammatory effects of these spices have been touted for hundreds of years. Plus, they are a great way to season food without overusing salt. Find ways to work them into your new and improved anti-inflammatory diet:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Cayenne
  • Garlic

Simple Mediterranean Recipes

1. Grilled Salmon with Vegetables


  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 2 red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers, trimmed, halved and seeded
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 11⁄4 pounds salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions
  • 1⁄4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges


  1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  2. Brush zucchini, peppers and onion with oil and sprinkle with 1⁄4 teaspoon salt.
  3. Sprinkle salmon with pepper and the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt.
  4. Place the vegetables and the salmon pieces, skin-side down, on the grill.
  5. Cook the vegetables, turning once or twice, until just tender and grill marks appear, 4 to 6 minutes per side.
  6. Cook the salmon, without turning, until it flakes when tested with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the vegetables and toss together in a large bowl.
  8. Remove the skin from the salmon fillets (if desired) and serve alongside the vegetables.
  9. Garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon basil and serve with a lemon wedge.

2. Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowl

Mediterranean Diet


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, rinsed
  • 1⁄4 cup slivered almonds
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1⁄4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1⁄4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Position a rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler to high.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  3. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Broil, turning once until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165°F, 14 to 18 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and slice or shred.
  6. Place peppers, almonds, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, paprika, cumin in a mini food processor. Puree until fairly smooth.
  7. Combine quinoa, olives, red onion and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl.
  8. To serve, divide the quinoa mixture among 4 bowls and top with equal amounts of cucumber, chicken and red pepper sauce.
  9. Sprinkle with feta and parsley.

Try the Mediterranean Diet Today!

Your diet has a huge influence on your body. Make small changes every day to encourage a healthier lifestyle. Just cutting down on sugar and increasing your intake of healthy fruits and vegetables can make a big difference on your painful symptoms. The Mediterranean diet is a great all round diet that can help you ensure you’re getting all of your proper nutrients to stay healthy and reduce pain.

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  1. Harvard Medical School, Can diet heal chronic pain?
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