Inflammation. It’s Not Just for Health Headlines.
It’s a fact.
Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be detrimental to our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).
Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.
Some inflammation – like in the initial stages of injury – is GOOD inflammation, because it is part of the recovery process. I see way too many athletes reaching for anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) at the slightest hint of pain.
Avoid unnecessary use of anti-inflammatory medications because it supresses inflammation and actually forfeits the long-term recovery process.
For OCR athletes, inflammation management is more important than eliminating inflammation. The right food (and supplements) can help speed recovery after an injury, but is often ignored because athletes don’t know how to use food and supplements in this way.
But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from; why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).
Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol” are found in these small and delicious fruits.
In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.
I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s), which is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health and performance.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Choose fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.
EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.
Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.
This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.
You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”
Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa
¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 dash salt
½ tbsp. turmeric
1 dash black pepper
2 cups broccoli, chopped
In a saucepan, place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.
Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.
Want to Learn More?
Most OCR athletes know that they can benefit from nutritional changes. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy lives. Chronic inflammation, pain and injuries don’t have to be part of being an athlete. And when injuries DO happen, there’s nothing better than optimizing recovery so you can get back to training and competing as quickly as possible.
That’s why I work closely with OCR athletes to help them optimize their performance and improve their race times by making sure they are nourished on a cellular level.
Interested in OCR Peak Performance Nutrition Coaching?
If you’re interested in coaching and want to find out more, I encourage you to book a free phone call or Skype session with me. We’ll use this call to discuss your goals, your current lifestyle and what’s holding you back from getting to where you want to be.
If you’re ready to optimize your performance and improve your race times, this is your chance.