10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat More Often
Performing intense workouts will help you build endurance and stronger muscles. But one unwanted side effect: increased inflammation. That’s why adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet is so important, especially after a workout.
As a cyclist eating nutritious foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties, you can aid your recovery while also fighting off chronic disease. “While inflammation is a necessary process to fight infection and heal from injury, chronic inflammation can lead to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” says Kristen Arnold, MS, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian and cycling coach. “By incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into the diet, cyclists can support overall systemic function and prevention of inflammatory-related issues.”
On the flip side, it’s also important to avoid foods that can increase inflammation, especially during training. Here, we list out those anti-inflammatory foods you should consume more often, and a few you should avoid.
1. Fatty Fish
Salmon, halibut, sardines and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be some of the most potent nutrients for lowering blood inflammatory markers, says Arnold. Consider swapping out chicken or red meat for fish one time a week to get more of these nutrients in your diet.
2. Green, Leafy Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and kale, are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols which aid muscle recovery and reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress, according to various research. Adding more leafy green vegetables to your diet can be simple: mix them into smoothies, have a side of spinach salad, or cook them with your pasta.
3. Orange Fruits and Veggies
Oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash typically contain vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation in the body, says Arnold. Add a sweet potato as your side dish to take advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties, or have oranges and carrots as a snack more ofte
4. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
If you normally cook with butter, consider using small amounts of olive oil instead, which will better support your inflammation-fighting efforts. EVOO is considered a healthy fat that contains traces of vitamin E and K.
Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory. These anti-inflammatory properties are better absorbed when consumed with black pepper and fat-rich foods, says Arnold. So consider adding it to salmon, with a peppery topping, to have a major inflammation-taming meal.
According to research, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that may help with muscle soreness after an intense workout. It’s great for adding some zing to vegetables, a stir-fry, or even a smoothie—think a pineapple-mango-ginger mix.
You can keep fresh ginger in the freezer and grate as needed, or buy chopped ginger. Stir a little into a squash soup and top the soup with a sprinkle of cinnamon for a delicious dish!
6. Cayenne and Chile Pepper
These spices can help fight inflammation because they contain compound called capsaicin, says Arnold. Add the spices to any dish for a little extra kick.
8. Green Tea
The anti-inflammatory benefit of green tea likely comes from its main component, EGCG, according to research. This compound suppresses inflammatory markers, and researchers suggest it may help to improve the qualify of life for those with inflammatory disease.
9. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice has been touted for its benefits postworkout, including reducing muscle soreness and of course, taming inflammation. One small study of 37 participants found that the anti-inflammatory properties of this fruit juice may even lower blood pressure and LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, along with its anti-oxidative effects.
10. Beans and Lentils
Thanks to both the antioxidants in beans and lentils, as well as their fibre, these foods can help lower inflammation. Also, replacing red meat with a plant-based protein alternative, like beans, can do wonders for your heart health.
Limit Added Sugars
Added sugars displace calories which could be coming from foods with anti-inflammatory properties. In short, when you fill up on foods with added sugars it leaves less room for other items that contain more beneficial nutrients, says Arnold.
Limit Ultra-Processed Foods
Foods that can increase inflammation include those like processed meat (including bacon) and refined grains (including white bread or white rice), according to Harvard Health. Research also shows a link between those who eat a higher-inflammatory diet and higher consumption of processed foods, as well as a link to poorer heart health.