Responsible for some 40% of minor sports injuries, tendinitis afflicts fingers, wrists, shoulders, elbows — basically any joint subject to recreational overuse. Both weekend warriors and more serious athletes can avoid getting sidelined for too long by paying special attention to their diet (in addition to rest, ice, compression and elevation, or RICE). In particular, promising new basic research suggests that bromelain — the enzyme found in pineapple — may get you back in the game.

A recent study in Phytotherapy Research found that bromelain-fed rats developed 27% more tendon cells, indicating a better healing response compared to a control group. Why might this be? Bromelain may help calm inflammation, support collagen production and act as a “clean up agent,” digesting dead cells to help injuries re-knit more smoothly. Indeed, one study from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that bromelain was one ingredient in a cocktail of compounds that helped speed healing by 17%.

Opt for pineapple as your bromelain source — Dole Nutrition research showed it has as much, if not more, of the enzyme compared to supplements. Indeed, some antioxidant supplements may block certain metabolic benefits of exercise. Fruits and vegetables contain a spectrum of other nutrients to help your game: Spinach and apples offer plant steroids and phytochemicals that may support muscle strength and stamina, for example, while ginger helps with soreness. Get double relief with this chicken stir-fry combining both ginger and pineapple.

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