Anti-Inflammatory Foods for any Sport enthusiast or Athlete
Many of you will have experienced common muscle complaints or inflammation caused and experienced first hand how this inhibits exercise or be properly treated to avoid the reoccurring swelling after those sports injuries.
Eating anti-inflammatory food is vital and necessary par of the healing process, and this is not just for the budding athlete. Eating whole food that is natural, sustainable is highly recommended and rich in the right vitamins minerals and amino acids for tissues to repair. For anyone affected by high blood sugar, body aches, arthritis, these are causes inflammation and the pre markers that can lead to chronic diseases and inflammation.
We all understand the importance of taking care of ourselves, whether we do light, moderate or core strength training (HIIT) or if we prefer a different approach to befuddling core strength and take up a regular sport such as running, yoga, pilates. Whatever you chose to do to take care of core strength e.g. for muscles, bones, and tissues will be affected by the food we eat. Since damaged tissues and muscles that are inflamed would benefit from eating proper foods that makes us happy when eating it. So thinking about food that is supportive and anti-inflammatory will make any vegan, vegetarian or generic athlete shine!
Whole grains are great as they digest slowly which helps keep blood sugar levels low. Spikes in blood sugar happen after eating refined flours and breads such as white pasta, bread and sugary snacks and these are the BADDIES as they all increase inflammation in the body. For anyone taking part in an extreme sport keeping these spikes at bay will reduce inflammation and keep you full and satisfied for longer so opt for whole grains. I suggest having the GOODIES such as organic short grain brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, or gluten free oats which are supportive and easy to digest . You may think about having a bespoke nutrition plan designed to help you think more about how to serve your individual needs. Millet, Teff or wild rice are also all alkaline and helpful when reducing inflammation particularly if you need food to help recover from an injury.
These are my favourites. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard are full of vital nutrients and great to include when dealing with any inflammation. These super greens contain those powerful antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and Vitamin C which all help ward off cellular damage and tissue injury. Try your greens cooked or have them in a winter salad sauted very slightly (2 mins max) .
Seasonal blueberries, Raspberries, Rosehips, Sea Buckthorn, Cherries, Acai, Blackberries,Strawberries, are also gems and packed with flavonoids and carotenoids and a top super food containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and high in anthocyanins and bioflavonoids which help reduce joint and muscle discomfort. Cherries also contain melatonin, an important natural chemical related to healthy sleep rhythms and maintaining a youthful appearance. Having them seasonally is always advisable and there are different varieties available at different times of the year so do some research or get in touch to find out which ones are good. Berries make skin glow, support a healthy immune system and support metabolism for the busy on the go athlete who needs to grab a handful of these effective powerhouses. Buying seasonal is usually best although opting for frozen blueberries in smoothies pre or post work out are good too.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice. Similar to ginger, it contains enzyme inhibitors to reduce swelling and pain. Turmeric is great in hearty soups and healthy protein rich dishes to gain its full potential and healing properties. Turmeric is extremely beneficial for those who suffer with arthritis, or for athletes who experience regular pain when performing. Adding more spices to dishes will curb sweet or salt cravings (both can be major contributors of inflammation).
The biggest anti-inflammatory benefits come from the antioxidants in sweet potatoes. These are loaded with beta-carotene and manganese and are important antioxidants that fight against inflammation diseases e.g.gout and arthritis. Sweet potatoes and a great source of natural fibre being a good carbohydrate to give athletes plenty of natural nourishment.
Green Tea and the Catechins are antioxidants. These help reduce inflammation. Green tea is beneficial for athletes because it provides a clean source of energy and boosts metabolisms. Brewing a cup or two a day will help calm inflammation puffiness and sooth pain. Green tea is an alternative caffeine switch making it a positive experience and not having a caffeine crash which is so crucial for any athlete with a demanding schedules.
Nuts and Seeds
The good fat in nuts and seeds help give our body sustenance and so vital for nourishing healthy athletes. Nuts and Seeds have healthy fat sources that are rich in Omega 3 fats that are also found in oily fish like salmon or mackerel and anchovies. Almonds, Pistacios, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts, Hemp seeds, or Pumpkin seeds are all omega 3 rich and can be added to salads for protein and are good for us as they are healthy fats, packed with good fiber. Almonds are my particular favorite and great in smoothies.
Non-gmo organic Soy is viewed as supportive and full of antioxidants and isoflavones which fight inflammation, especially for female athletes. These isoflavones act similar to estrogen, and researched as helpful in the fight against cancer. There have also been some studies that warn against soy so make an informed choice. Choosing organic Edamame, tofu, tempeh or soya milk over GMO soy based products or soy isolate is in my view a must. For vegans to healthfully eat soy and benefit from its anti-inflammation benefits, I do not favour soy but the choice has to be yours.
Shiitake mushrooms, along with a few other Asian mushrooms such as maitake and oyster mushrooms, have huge benefits for the immune system and eating them will provide necessary nutrients including Vitamin D which is a preventative mineral to inflammation.
Garlic is known always a must for me and in its support in boosting immunity. Garlic contains sulphur compounds that boost the immune system to fight against diseases. Adding garlic to dishes is flavoursome and known to help lower blood sugar and provide powerful antioxidants to keep inflammation low. Combining garlic with whole grains and plenty of spices will sooth any vegan athletes swollen joints and muscles. If you don’t tolerate grains increase those root vegetables and get your daily good carbs.
Foods to Avoid
Eliminating inflammation begins with a balanced diet so its important to avoid foods with hidden or high sugar and high sodium content, artificial flavourings, along with white and all refined flours. These foods will only allow inflammation to occur, and can eventually lead to serious injury. All processed foods can leave any athlete unsatisfied and ultimately craving more. While many athletes eat meat based products to help inflammation, the antioxidants and anti-inflammation compounds found in vegan, plant based foods will always help the body perform its best. Making good food choices will help nourish you naturally and keep the pre cursers to inflammation at bay.
Three Macronutrient Ratios Choices: (Choose One Depending on Your Nutritional Preferences)
(A) 30% Protein, 50% Carbs, and 20% Fats
(B) 40% Protein, 50% Carbs, and 10% Fats or
(C) 40% Protein, 40% Carbs, and 20% Fats