Salicylate – the vegetarian’s secret ingredient for health

Aspirin bottleTake two aspirin and call me in the morning is the common refrain we often hear from doctors. Aspirin, aceta-salicylic acid as it’s technically known, is rapidly metabolized to salicylic acid in the body. Doctors have determined that salicylic acid is responsible for many of aspirin’s beneficial effects.  It turns out that salicylic acid is present in many plant foods and are easily absorbed by the body. One study showed that some vegetarians have the same amount of salicylates in their blood as people who take daily low dose aspirin.

Salicylates have been found to lower blood levels of indicators of inflammation in the body, such as Cardio Reactive Protein (CRP). Their anti-inflammatory effects are helpful in preventing heart disease, and lowering the risk of inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. They’ve even been found to be helpful in treating those diseases. Recently, scientists have determined that salicylates are also effective at preventing and even treating colon cancer, and they are currently studying other benefits of salicylates that may go beyond their anti-inflammatory benefits.

Vegetarians receive some salicylate in their diets on an ongoing basis over many years, thereby contributing to the continuing beneficial effects. These naturally occurring salicylates are enough to give many vegetarians an anti-inflammatory benefit and even an anti-cancer effect.  Studies have found that a plant-based diet can lower the risk of both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Crohn’s Disease, so it may be the salicylates in their diet that are giving them this benefit.

You can obtain salicylates from a variety of different foods. Plant foods vary in the amount of salicylates they contain, but here are a few that have generous amounts:

PineappleAlmonds, Chicory, Green peppers, Mushrooms, Nectarine, Pineapple, Prunes, Radishes, Raisins, Raspberries, Tomato paste, Zucchini,

Not to be overlooked are the salicylates present in relatively large amounts in many spices. While only a small amount of spice is typically used, their high levels is still enough to significantly contribute to salicylates in the diet.


Here are few spices that have generous amounts:

Cumin, Mint, Paprika, Thyme, Turmeric.

Once again we see the many health benefits in various spices. So remember that by being vegetarian, you are get a little bit of nature’s medicine every day!