Protein for Back Pain

What Are The Best Proteins to Reduce Chronic Pain

Many of us have been raised on the meat, pasta and pizza diet. We are used to eating processed meat for protein and in our minds, that is where we get our energy. This isn’t necessarily the case though. Protein doesn’t actually convert into energy unless there are live enzymes to convert it into an amino acid. If the protein isn’t converted it stores in your body and calcifies the joints creating painful inflammation that can feel like sharp glass. Many people are concerned about getting enough protein and they don’t really know what are alternative sources of protein that could reduce their inflammation. Red meats and processed white meats can cause significant inflammation because they are often pumped with chemicals that are toxic and have antibiotics and steroids that create free radicals in our bodies.

Don’t worry, these will fill you up and there are plenty of plant based professional athletes that have muscles and lots of energy. If you do choose to eat meats, bison, organic free range chicken or beef and salmon or tuna are good options. When it comes to eggs, try to only have organic free range eggs. Greek yogurt also has protein but try to get the kind without sugar or just with honey. Most people don’t realize that all vegetables contain protein. Women should try to get at least 40 grams of protein daily and men should try to get at least 50 grams. This varies depending on your size and level of activity.


Hemp protein does not make you high. It’s a different part of the plant that is high in protein and fatty acids that will help reduce inflammation. Hemp seeds are delicious and almost buttery. They are great in salads or mixed in with just about anything. They go for about $8 per bag and there are no drawbacks to eating them. You can also get hemp protein powder to add to smoothies.

Green Peas

This is an alkalizing protein that is affordable and can definitely help reduce inflammation. There are many nutrients in this protein and it’s inexpensive. You can buy organic frozen peas for under $3 and include them in your salads. You can also get organic pea protein powder but you want to find one without sugar or as low sugar as possible.

Garbanzo Beans and Hummus

Beans are high in fiber and help promote digestion. They help to reduce bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. Hummus is a staple food in the middle east and for a good reason. It has healthy oils and anti inflammatory qualities. It’s better to make your own and you can make this raw so it’s more bioavailable. You can sprout the garbanzo beans if you buy them in bulk. Many health food stores are also selling raw hummus now it’s just a bit more expensive. Try not to get any brands of hummus that have preservatives because that kind of defeats the purpose of eating it. To make hummus, use tahini, olive oil, chickpeas, garlic and any spices you enjoy like cayenne pepper, cilantro or basil. Roasted red peppers or sun dried tomatoes are also good to add in.

Other Beans

One thing you don’t want to do is eat only one or two types of proteins. Try to eat a variety to be sure you’re getting all the different minerals and vitamins they contain. Kidney beans, black beans, cannellini, pinto and lentils are all great sources of protein. Lentils are very inexpensive and it’s important to know that combining rice and beans is a complete protein. You can put them in a blender with herbs and make soup or you can add them to delicious salads. You can make bean dips or add them to tacos or burritos.


Mushrooms are really great for your immune system and have protein. They are a very healing and medicinal plant that comes in many varieties. You can use them in curry, make portobello burgers or add them to dishes and salads. You can eat these raw or cooked and you should only eat them organic because the pesticides added to conventional produce stays on them and sinks into their pores.

Raw Nuts and Nut Butters

Peanuts are known to cause inflammation in the body and it’s better to choose other nut butters. Raw nut butters are a good option and raw nuts are as well. You will probably want to buy sprouted almonds because otherwise they can hurt your stomach as they have a digestive inhibitor in them. Try to only eat nuts and nut butters that do not have added salt or sugar. Sorry but, Jiff and Skippy are not good options. You can sprout nuts in water and make nut milk in a strong blender as well. This is not only a healthy source of protein but also a healthy source of fat. You can eat a variety of nuts including pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, almonds and others. Try adding them to oatmeal, salads or make a trail mix with raisins and seeds as a snack. They are great to add to healthy dessert recipes as well.

Seeds and Seed Butters

People often forget about seeds but they are very good to eat to lower inflammation. Sunflower seed butter is inexpensive and a great substitute for peanut butter. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of protein. Try to get raw or sprouted seeds to get the full nutrient benefit. You can usually find them in the bulk section. Eat them plain or add them to salads. Health food stores will have seeds that are coated in salt or sugar which is what you want. If you don’t live near a healthfood store, you can buy them online.


Believe it or not, spinach has more protein than soy, beans or nuts. It’s great to add to smoothies and salads and you should consume it raw. It doesn’t have a strong flavor and it will help alkalize your body and reduce inflammation. You should really try to only eat organic spinach because it has no outer covering to keep off pesticides. Spinach does contain oxalic acid so if you eat too much raw spinach you can get mouth sores (just like cashews). This is why it’s important to eat a variety of protein sources. You can add spinach to your omelettes or make big spinach salads a new habit to help manage your chronic pain. Spinach is cheap and very healing. It also helps to strengthen your immune system and fight off sickness.


Yes that’s right, you can get protein from a grain. Red quinoa has anti inflammatory properties and is 14% protein as opposed to rice which is only 4%. This is a good grain for your heart and it tastes good. Make sure to rinse it before you cook it.


The market is flooded with protein powders. But how do you know which one to choose? Protein powders can be a great way to get all the protein you need but you should be aware that not all protein powders are created equal. I recommend only buying raw protein powders that don’t have fillers. You can find these from Health Force Nutritionals and Sun Warrior. Don’t buy protein powders that have a ton of sugar or are whey, rice or soy because that won’t really help reduce your inflammation.

I’m not a big fan of soy protein because many times these are processed. If you like soy, remember that it has estrogen so you don’t want to eat it too much. You should only eat organic soy if you do eat soy because GMO soy has been linked to cancer. Edamame is a good soy option or organic sprouted tofu. Soy products are usually high in sodium and full of preservatives so steer clear of them.

So what about sausage, ground turkey, hot dogs, steak, pulled pork and all those succulent meats? Well statistics show that eating meat increases cancer growth rates and slows digestion. If you don’t believe me check out a book called the China Study or the documentary based on it called Forks Over Knives.

Shannon Yrizarry

Shannon Yrizarry is a health and wellness professional who was healed from chronic back pain in 2003 after studying the mind-body connection. She went on to study the physical and mental benefits of yoga and now teaches classes and workshops in Southern California. She has also worked as an organic health consultant and writes about how to eat a clean whole foods diet incorporating gluten-free, raw, and dairy free options.