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Welcome to an 8-part blog series on what to eat for less pain — designed by Marie Feldman, one of our amazing registered dietitians here at PeerWell Health, based out of Los Angeles!

Marie Feldman dietitian
Marie Feldman, RD.

After this pain-free eating series, you’ll be able to:

  • Choose what foods to add or get rid of in your diet
  • Identify which foods promote good health and wellness
  • Understand how certain foods fight inflammation and pain

Pain, eating for pain & your day-to-day eating habits: What’s the link? 
Believe it or not, what you eat everyday can make a BIG difference: both in your energy levels and your body’s ability to deal with pain.  Good nutrition helps your joints and muscles function, heal and thrive. It’s also an extra way to fight pain – be it back, knee, shoulder or another type of pain.  Take 5 minutes for yourself to learn about how nutrition is affecting your health.

Whole grains can help reduce pain.
Today’s topic is whole grains. You’ll learn what counts as a whole grain, what doesn’t, and how to get more in your diet. If you’re interested in protein’s affect on pain and health, learn more here.

Why eat more whole grains for less pain?

Whole grains and fiber are the unsung heroes of health. More than just bowel help, fiber is key to your wellbeing — read on to see all the things fiber helps with.

A common deficiency in the United States.
Unfortunately, only about 5-7% of Americans are getting the recommended amount of daily fiber in their diets. That means 93-95% of Americans don’t get enough fiber!

Benefits of eating whole grains often: 
  • Decreases the bad and increases the good: Whole grains improve after-meal blood sugar and inflammation, help with satiety for weight loss and reduce serum cholesterol levels. 
  • Helps with inflammation, pain and the immune system: Whole grains have valuable nutrients like antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron. These help the body deal with pain, strengthen the immune system and lower inflammation. 
  • Prevents disease: Among the best sources of fiber (others include fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts), fiber intake is important for preventing a whole host of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.  
  • Controls blood sugar: Whole grains also work to control blood sugar. This is particularly important if you’re diabetic or have pre-diabetes, but applies to everyone. 
  • Improves surgery results: For those undergoing surgery, you can use whole grains to help control blood sugar – which is linked to better wound healing, less risk of blood clots and less need for extra surgery. A clear example of how what we eat everyday affects our body right now! More information on nutrition before surgery.

What counts as a whole grain? 
A food is defined as a whole grain if it has its three original parts — the bran, germ, and endosperm — still present in the same proportions when the grain was initially grown in the field. In other words, the grain has not had anything removed from it; Think of brown rice, rolled oats or a popcorn kernel (in contrast to white rice, flour or corn syrup).  When eaten in their ‘whole’ form, whole grains include: 
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • amaranth
  • wheat
  • corn
  • rice
  • barley
  • buckwheat
  • sorghum
  • millet
  • spelt
  • rye 
  • and even popcorn
These are healthy choices—especially when you’re trying to kick your body into recovery mode.
Tip #1: Whole grains should be listed as the first ingredient on a product’s food label. If not, that product probably only has a small portion of whole grains.
eat for less pain whole grains
Look for products that have whole grains as the first ingredient.

Skip the refined grains — eat for less pain

In contrast, refined grains are milled to remove the bran and germ and create a different texture. This comes at the cost of removing much of the nutrition — including fiber, iron, and B vitamins.

Refined grains to avoid:
  • white bread, white rice and pasta made with white flour
  • refined breakfast cereals, such as those with a sweet or sugary coating 
  • desserts like cookies, candy, cakes, pies, donuts, pastries

3 more reasons why you’ll want to reduce refined carbs:

  • Leave you hungry and unsatisfied: Refined, low-fiber carbohydrates (made with white sugar and white flour) are digested and absorbed rapidly. This can lead to blood sugar spikes and weight gain. They also don’t help keep you full and satisfied.
  • Pump your body full of bad stuff: Eating refined starches can increase blood sugars, blood fats called triglycerides and inflammation in the body which can worsen chronic pain. 
  • Provide little nutrition: Also, these foods do not offer much nutrition to the body, only empty calories. 

Tips to get more whole grains each day

  1. Eat whole grains and you’ll be full – both of nutrition and fullness-wise. Gradually start replacing the refined grains with whole grain foods.
  2. Choose whole, unmilled grains. When in doubt, look at the whole grains listed above! They’re all high fiber.
  3. You can comfortably eat 1.5-3 cups of whole grains each day. Alternatively, make your plate 25% whole grains at every meal.
  4. Tip #2: You can look for the yellow whole grain stamp on the packaging, created by the Oldways Whole Grain Council.
    OldWays yellow whole grain label to eat for less pain with whole grains
    This label means a product has 16g+ of whole grains.
    9 dietitian-approved tricks on eating more whole grains for less pain:
    • Replace your flour: When a recipe calls for white flour (all-purpose), experiment by replacing some of the flour with a whole grain variety, like whole wheat or oat flour
    • Try new grains: Some examples include: quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, or kasha.
    • Make it a side dish: Use a whole grain as a side dish or mix it with vegetables, lentils, or beans. 
    • Eat whole-grain bread: Substitute whole grain bread in place of white bread for toast and sandwiches.
    • Throw in a cup of whole grains: Add whole grains like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley or quinoa to soups, salads, or casseroles in place of white rice or pasta. 
    • Eat them for breakfast: Choose a cooked whole grain as a hot breakfast cereal, like oats, multigrain blends or try a baked oatmeal recipe.
    • Try them as a snack: Test out whole grain cold cereal for breakfast and snacks. If you are not used to bran or other high-fiber cereals, try mixing them with equal amounts of your regular cereal. 
    • Switch your crackers: Choose whole-grain crackers instead of saltines or other white-flour & snack crackers.
    • Swap breadcrumbs: Use oatmeal in place or whole wheat breadcrumbs in items such as meatloaf or meatballs

    From Marie’s kitchen:

    Delicious, oat-rich pancakes (full recipe)

    oat pancakes dietitian recipe eat for less pain

    Warm, cinnamon apple breakfast (full recipe)

    apple oats eat for less pain dietitian recipe

    Need more help with how to eat for less pain?

    • Tune back in next week as we delve into more ‘eat this, not that’ advice with Marie Feldman. As always, if you want to conquer pain and improve your wellbeing, we’re here for you.
    • Book a nutrition consultation with PeerWell Health registered dietitian, Marie Feldman. You’ll get a plan tailored to your needs, practical help on setting realistic goals, and support on your journey to better health.

    Get the information you need to get better. Schedule your free consultation with a care coordinator today.

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