Top 10 Foods to Fight Inflammation
I have been rock climbing and biking for years and I never plan on stopping. Of course, with any sport comes regular wear and tear and the possibility of injury. For many athletes, chronic inflammation is common, can be disruptive to their lives, and can hinder them from participating in the physical activities they love.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s immune response to harmful stimuli (pathogens, irritants, microbes, damaged cells, injuries, etc.). In short, it is the body’s reaction to injury or infection.
Chronic inflammation occurs when irritants causing inflammation remain in the body. It can last for months, years, or even for a whole lifetime. It can be subtle, bunkered down in the intestines where you won't see any evidence of inflammation, but you will feel it on a daily basis. Chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis.
A Cry for Help From Your Body
Chronic inflammation doesn’t necessarily stem from an athlete’s activities. Rather, chronic inflammation is a cry for help from your body. Your body is telling you that there is something missing, whether it’s vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants. The state of your health all comes back to what you put in your body. By eating anti-inflammatory foods, your body will stay stronger, recover faster, and attain better results in whatever sport you pursue.
Here is my list of the top ten anti-inflammatory foods:
1. Hemp Seeds
These are full of omega-3 essential fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation. Since your body doesn’t produce these fatty acids, the only way to get them is through food. They can also be found in chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts. A few other amazing natural sources of omega-3s are yams, radish, alfalfa sprouts, basil, and broccoli.
2. Just Add Turmeric
Turmeric contains vitamin B6, iron, and magnesium. These properties are great for reducing inflammation by helping red blood cell growth and maintaining a healthy immune system. Add turmeric to your smoothies, rice, or soups.
3. It’s A Ginger Thing
Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. Consuming ginger on a regular basis can help reduce muscular pain and swelling, something many athletes suffer from. Ginger is great in smoothies or you can add it to your favorite vegetable stir-fry.
4. Full of Beans
Beans are a clean plant protein bursting with antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation. Many athletes get their protein from meat, but unfortunately some meat can be full of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. Try replacing some of your animal proteins with beans.
5. Like A Virgin
Extra virgin olive oil contains a powerful amount of antioxidants, as well as oleic acid - a fatty acid believed to decrease inflammation. Olive oil is something you can easily add into your daily diet. Use it in homemade salad dressings or sauces or drizzle some over an avocado for a healthy snack.
6. Juice The Way You Like It
Juicing is a simple way to get a monster dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are all important for fighting inflammation. Try juicing once a day during heavy training. You can even store leftovers up to 24 hours in a sealed container.
7. Cherry-Oh Baby
Tart cherries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that can help fight inflammation. This antioxidant can help reduce the effects of muscle damage over time. Organic tart cherry juice is the easiest way to get your tart cherry benefits. Try having a small glass in the morning or mid afternoon for a little pick-me-up.
8. It’s Easy Being Green
Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens have high concentrations of vitamin E, calcium, and iron, which can all help fight inflammation. Add your favorite leafy greens to your smoothie or make a delicious dark green salad.
9. Pineapple Express
Pineapple contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain has been linked to helping decrease pain, swelling, and bruising. Pineapple is great in a pre-workout smoothie or added to a savory stir-fry for a touch of sweetness.
10. Go For Garlic
Garlic not only adds flavor but it contains a sulfur compound that can boost your immune system and fight inflammation. Yes, you can add garlic to a smoothie, but make sure to follow a recipe - garlic is a powerful flavor. It is also great roasted and spread on a cracker or crushed and added to any savory dish.
Many athletes rely on sports bars, energy drinks, and food supplements while training and although they can be fine in moderation, make sure to always read the labels. Many of these products are just processed foods disguised as "health foods," causing inflammation and slowing your recovery. Eating clean and drinking plenty of water is the best way to avoid or reduce chronic inflammation.
What are your pre- and post-workout food rituals? I would love to hear how you fight inflammation. Please share in the comments below.