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An Anti-Inflammatory Diet For a Healthy Spine

Frequent sufferers of back and spine pain may not know that what they eat has a direct effect on their condition. In fact, maintaining a healthy diet directly correlates to spinal health in both preventing and promoting the healing of back complications. Since many back issues occur due to the bodies natural inflammatory response, a diet that can help lower inflammation is key to spinal wellness. Think about it: inflammatory foods will increase your bodies natural inflammatory response– you truly are what you eat.

Orthopedic spine expert Dr. Hooman Melamed recommends a lectin-free diet. Many popular foods contain lectins, which are a significant source of inflammation that can also lead to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Making a conscious effort to change your diet to include the following lectin-free food types, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients will prove beneficial to your ongoing spinal health.

Acceptable meats

Processed, red meat is typically what comes to mind when people hear the word “protein,” but these animal-based proteins cause a high inflammatory response in the body. It is always best to limit the amount of animal protein you consume, but switching to the following lectin-free meats are better options.

  • Pastured poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, goose, pheasant, and quail.
  • Grass-fed meats: bison, wild game, venison, boar, elk, humanely raised pork, lamb, and beef
  • Prosciutto (Italian ham)

Plant-based meat substitutes to reduce inflammation:

  • Meat substitute products such as Quorn: Chik’n Tenders, Chik’n Cutlets, Turk’y Roast. These are all meatless versions of popular animal-based proteins.
  • Hemp tofu
  • Grain-free tempeh

Omega-3 and Omega-9 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that your body cannot make on its own. They offer a variety of health benefits including fighting inflammation and promoting bone health- two key things to increase spinal wellness.

They can be found in the following foods:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Flaxseeds

Omega-3 can also be obtained through fish oil supplements if sufficient amounts cannot be consumed through a regular diet.

Unlike Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-9 fats can be produced by the body. In fact, they are the most abundant fats found in most body cells. However, consuming foods high in Omega-9 fats over other types of fat lead to decreased levels of inflammation.

Omega-9 fatty acids can be found in the following types of oils:

  • Olive
  • Almond
  • Avocado

Other acceptable oils include:

  • Algae
  • Coconut
  • Macadamia
  • Walnut
  • Red palm
  • Sesame

Avoid these lectin-containing oils:

  • Soy
  • Grape Seed
  • Corn
  • Cashew nut
  • Peanut
  • Safflower
  • Canola
  • Cottonseed
  • Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable

Everyone knows vegetables are good for you, but dark, leafy greens, in particular, have numerous health benefits for bones, eyes, heart, and more. They include Vitamins A, C, E, and K, many of the B-vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium. 

The following leafy greens are capable of reducing inflammation in the spinal column thus reducing back pain:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Chard
  • Arugula

Avoid these lectin-containing vegetables:

  • Peas
  • Sugar snaps
  • Legumes
  • Green beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Soy
  • Tofu
  • Edamame
  • Beans
  • Lentils (unless cooked in a pressure cooker)


Calcium is the most essential nutrient for bone health. Children are told that calcium makes their bones grow big and strong, but did you know the same rings true through adulthood? Consuming an adequate amount of calcium can prevent the development of osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones) as you age. Avoid dairy products from cows such as milk, yogurt, and cheese since they contain lectin. Instead, opt for the following sources of calcium:

  • Goat dairy products: goat milk, goat cheese
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Swiss cheese
  • French/Italian cheese
  • Vegetables (preferably dark, leafy greens)
  • Fish that you eat the bones of (sardines and pilchards)

More acceptable foods for spine health:

  • Olives
  • Dark chocolate
  • Vinegar
  • Red wine
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Fruits (in limited amounts): blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, kiwis
  • Dairy-free frozen yogurt
  • Goat milk ice cream

More unacceptable, lectin-containing foods:

  • Starchy foods: pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, diet drinks
  • The following nuts: pumpkin, sunflower, chia, peanuts, cashers
  • The following fruits and vegetables: cucumber, zucchini, squashes, melons, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant

Dr. Hooman Melamed understands that spine health comes from keeping a healthy weight, diet, exercise, and lifestyle. At his practice, we believe in taking precautionary steps to wellness before considering surgery as an option.

For full-service spine care from the orthopedic spine expert Dr. Hooman Melamed, call (310) 574-0405 or schedule an appointment online.