The Pain Free Diet Blog

Plant-based, Paleo, probiotics, prebiotics, antibiotics, GMO, gluten-free, organic, all-natural, cleanses, detoxification, supplement, don’t supplement. Pretty confusing right? What is truly healthy and what is not? What is missing in the healthcare system that can treat your pain safely and effectively? Weekly articles explore trending topics, dig into the science, and debunk myths while giving you a sustainable approach to eliminate pain and improve your long-term health, function and vitality.

By: Jonathan Tait, D.O.

I already shared with you several reasons why vegetables pack such a punch against pain, and why they should be a powerhouse staple in the foundation of your diet.

Another tidbit most people don’t know is that calorie for calorie, many vegetables are fairly high in protein content. Broccoli, romaine lettuce, and kale actually have more protein than a porterhouse steak by weight.

Of course, because meat is more calorie-dense than vegetables, you would have to eat a considerable heap of broccoli or kale to get the same amount of protein in a reasonable serving of meat.

The point to make here is that quite a bit of your protein can and should come from plant-based sources, and not just from meat, eggs, dairy and protein supplements.

There is a myth, largely due to very successful meat and dairy lobbyists and millions of dollars spent in marketing, that we will become protein deficient and waste away if we are not consuming meat and dairy products multiple times per day.

This is completely false.

Most people think they need far more protein than they actually do, and just as many people feel there is no way to get enough protein on a primarily plant-based diet.

Also, not true.

I will get deeper into this topic in future, but for now lets agree that if you are are going to continue to eat meat and dairy products, I would make them a much smaller portion of your diet, and source the highest possible quality available.

So what vegetables are on the top of my shopping list each week?

There is a pretty simple rule to follow when you’re walking through your favorite farmer’s market or produce section in the grocery store.

Anything Green = Great

Leafy greens

  • Kale – This is a powerhouse of a green that is great raw in salads, baked into chips, or thrown into soups, stews, and smoothies.
  • Lettuces – Romaine, green leaf, red leaf, arugula,
  • Bok choy
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Other good greens

  • *Peppers (technically fruits because they have seeds) – green bell, jalapeno, serrano, and other types of chili peppers can be potent pain killers for some, but as you’ve learned for others may crank up inflammation and pain.
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Peas – snap, snow, sweet (a serving of sweet peas actually has more protein than a tablespoon of peanut butter, or one whole egg, and with no fat)

Not Green = Still great

If you are eating a wide variety of colorful vegetables in addition to your greens, you should have no issue acquiring the essential vitamins and trace minerals your body requires for optimal function.

  • Beans – yellow, purple
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Artichokes
  • Jicama
  • Onions, shallots
  • Parsnips
  • Yams
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Squashes
  • Radish


For all the same reasons as vegetables, fruits should be a regular staple in your pain killing arsenal of foods.

The only difference is that they naturally contain more sugar than vegetables so most will have a higher Glycemic Index (GI) than vegetables.

Sticking to low GI fruits may be a better choice if you are diabetic, or keeping an eye on your waistline. However, with very few exceptions, if you are replacing refined foods with a few pieces of fruit each day, there is very little chance you are going to pack on the pounds, or go off the charts with your blood sugar regulation.

Fruits that pack a punch against pain:

  • Cherries – Being from Michigan where we have exceptional cherries a couple months of the year, they are by far my go-to fruit for snacking. A lot of people know about tart cherry juice having anti-inflammatory properties, but consuming the whole form is more bioavailable and carries along health fiber. They are also quite low on the GI scale.
  • Berries of all varieties – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries are all great sources of antioxidants, and most are lower on the GI scale as well.
  • Pineapple – Contains a very important enzyme, bromelain, that has properties to enhance healing. (We’ll dive into that in a future article).
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Mango
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Pumpkin
  • Plums

There you have it, my “secret” list of the most potent vegetables and fruits guaranteed to help your body’s inflammatory balance.


1. Cao G, Alessio HM, Cutler RG. Oxygen-radical absorbance capacity assay for antioxidants. Free Radic Biol Med. Mar 1993;14(3):303-311.