8 Foods to Help Fight Inflammation as an Athlete
Updated: Jul 9, 2022
Tasha Trudeau, Strategic Assistant
Reviewed by Dana Eshelman, MS, RDN
Fighting Inflammation as an Athlete
Did you know that the foods you eat can impact inflammation and injury? For athletes, intense exercise triggers the release of free radicals which may lead to cell damage and loss of muscle function causing an inflammation response in the body which can present as redness, swelling, and pain. This is known as exercise-induced inflammation.
These inflammation responses are normal in the body but can impact recovery time and potential injuries. Inflammation may also cause fatigue, soreness, limited muscle growth, muscle loss, and even an increased risk of chronic diseases which all can impact performance and overall health. Athletes need to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods as a way to help prevent prolonged inflammation in an attempt to balance exercise-induced inflammation with intense physical activity.
Incorporating foods high in antioxidants and omega-3s help protects cells from free radicals and improves immune function. These nutrients will assist in repairing injured tissues and help recovery from intense physical activity.
Many foods help fight against inflammation including:
Vegetables: cruciferous, green leafy vegetables, avocados, and tomatoes just to name a few
Fruit: especially berries, citrus fruits, and tart cherry juice
Egg yolks: high in vitamin D
Whole grains: bread, oatmeal, brown rice
Seeds: flax and chia seeds are full of omega-3s
Nuts: full of antioxidants and omega-3s, aim for a variety of almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios
Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Spices: including turmeric, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon all have anti-inflammatory properties
In addition to incorporating high-antioxidant foods (fruits and vegetables), omega-3 fatty acids, and spices, athletes also need to hydrate properly and consume high-quality protein post-exercise in balancing exercise-induced inflammation. If these are goals you struggle with, we are here to help you determine what your needs are and how to best meet them to support your performance goals.
This week we want to highlight spices that are known to be anti-inflammatory and how you can incorporate them into meals. Ginger, garlic, and turmeric are known as spices that contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Here are some fun ways to spice it up with these powerful spices.
1⁄4 frozen banana
1⁄2 cup frozen pineapple
1⁄2 cup fresh papaya
Big handful baby spinach
1⁄4 cup shredded carrots
1 slice fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons rolled oats
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
4-8 ounces unsweetened coconut water/milk or nut milk
Raspberry Lemonade Smoothie
1⁄2 frozen banana
1⁄4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1⁄4 cup shredded carrot
small slice fresh ginger
Juice and zest of 1⁄2 lemon
2 Tablespoons cashews (soaked overnight in filtered water)
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds
4-8 ounces unsweetened coconut water
Honey Turmeric Chicken
4 (12 oz. /340 g per chicken) chicken thighs, deboned but skin-on
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon oyster or soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon oil
Add the garlic, honey, oyster sauce, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper and salt to the chicken, stir to combine well.
Heat up a skillet (cast-iron preferred) on medium heat and add the oil. Transfer the chicken to the skillet and cook on both sides, until they turn golden brown, crispy on the bottom and nicely glazed and browned on the skin side. Dish out and serve immediately.