What is inflammation? Get the scoop on chronic versus acute inflammation, and a list of foods that will help you ward off painful and dangerous inflammation after a workout.
Inflammation. It’s a buzzword that is thrown around a lot, but it isn’t always completely understood. Almost everyone deals with some sort of inflammation at some point in their life, and it can be painful and cause long-term consequences. That’s why it’s important to prevent and treat inflammation as much as possible, and food can help with that healing process.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation occurs when the white blood cells in the body try to protect from infection and harmful organisms or assist in the injury healing process.
There are two types of inflammation– chronic and acute.
Chronic inflammation is long-term inflammation that can be caused by a prolonged injury that doesn’t heal, an autoimmune disease that attacks that body’s healthy tissues or unhealthy lifestyle factors, like a poor diet, lack of sleep or too much stress.
Eating certain foods, like an abundance of sugar, saturated fat or refined carbohydrates, triggers the release of cells that cause inflammation. That’s why eating a poor diet, as well as being overweight or obese are linked with chronic inflammation. In addition, chronic inflammation is associated with the development of serious diseases, like heart disease, cancer and Diabetes.
Acute inflammation, on the other hand, only lasts for a brief period of time. Many athletes experience acute inflammation after a tough workout, or you might have acute inflammation after a muscle strain. Acute inflammation is the body’s way of healing, and it isn’t always a bad thing.
Acute inflammation is usually accompanied by pain and fatigue, but it’s treatable with rest, ice and good nutrition.
10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Luckily, one of the easiest ways to prevent and treat inflammation is to eat! Food is filled with antioxidants, which are inflammation fighting molecules. Most fruits, veggies and foods that are high in healthy fats are filled with antioxidants. Here’s a list of 10 of my favorite inflammation fighting foods.
The active component in turmeric, known as curcumin, has anti-inflammatory properties. There is new and emerging research about the role of supplemental curcumin in treating arthritis, and the results look promising.
For now, I recommend sticking to turmeric in your food. There are many yummy ways to include this spice in your diet, such as in my Turmeric Egg Sandwich, Turmeric Hummus, curries, soups, sprinkled on roasted vegetable or in tea.
Everyone loves avocados, right? This plant-based healthy fat is full of antioxidants and carotenoids, which help to reduce inflammation. As an added bonus, the high calorie and fat content will keep you full after a workout.
I often start my day off with some smashed avocado on whole grain toast with a sprinkling of seeds. Grab the recipe for my Avocado Toast here.
3. Chia Seeds
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like chia seeds, is associated with having lower levels of inflammatory markers.
Chia seeds are particularly great because they can be thrown into many recipes, from smoothies to oatmeal. Or try your hand at making chia seed pudding.
Apart from many healthful vitamins and minerals, broccoli contains the compound sulforaphane, which may help to reduce inflammation. Not to mention that it’s loaded with heart-healthy fiber and immune boosting Vitamin C.
I often include broccoli in stir-fries and homemade pasta sauces or throw it in a rice bowl.
In addition to being just downright delicious, cherries also contain anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
It’s not always easy to find fresh cherries, so look for the frozen variety. They are picked when ripe and frozen at the peak of freshness. Use them to whip up these delicious Frozen Yogurt & Cherry Bites.
The darker the color, the better it is for you. I love all fruits and vegetables, but the ones that pack in the most nutrients in every bite are usually dark in color. Blueberries are no exception. These tiny berries are full of antioxidants, like polyphenols (plant compounds) and Vitamin C.
You can tell how much I love blueberries by all the recipes I have with them. Here are some of my favorites:
- No-Bake Blueberry Granola Bars
- 3-Ingredient Blueberry Chia Jam
- No Added Sugar Blueberry Pancakes
- Blueberry Maple Trail Mix
7. Olive oil
Often referred to as the healthiest cooking oil, olive oil is rich in good unsaturated fat. Those types of fat protect from inflammation, especially when they replace unhealthy cooking fats, like butter.
Olive oil is perfect as a finishing oil on top of dips or toasts, and it makes a great addition to dressings and marinades.
All nuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but walnuts are one of the best sources of this good fat. As you know by now, healthy fats fight against harmful inflammation.
Incorporate walnuts into your breakfast by adding them to your oatmeal or cereal. Or make these Banana Chia Walnut Oat Cups ahead of time to get your dose of inflammation-fighting food.
Dark colors equals antioxidants and kale is the darkest leaf out there. There’s a reason kale is considered a superfood, and it’s because it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. All of that in one inexpensive leaf– sign me up!
Eating raw kale can be a bit tough, so try cooking it and adding it to dishes. But if you’re a kale lover, a big old salad full of this leafy green is a great place to start. Here are some of my favorite kale options:
Mushrooms have high amounts of two antioxidant compounds known as ergothioneine and glutathione. And they have a savory (or umami taste) that isn’t common in many plant foods.
Added mushrooms to your recovery meal with this Freezer Mushroom Breakfast Burrito.