Inflammation is your body’s normal response to tissue damage. However, in excess, it can wreak havoc on your body, triggering everything from minor aches and pains to more serious issues like heart disease and cancer. For runners, keeping inflammation to a minimum can aid in the recovery process. When inflammation becomes widespread and chronic, recovery between runs takes longer, and performance undoubtedly suffers.
While many folks may immediately reach right for the over-the-counter NSAID, consider that the foods we eat can play a role in fighting inflammation.
Rather than detailing all of the foods to eliminate, let’s look instead at foods to add to your daily diet. Your best defense is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. As a side benefit, you’ll also be upping your antioxidant intake, which helps with the oxidative stress that comes with endurance running/racing. Certain foods and spices pack even more of an anti-inflammatory punch and are worth incorporating into your diet.
In my humble opinion, turmeric is truly a superhero in the spice world. In studies, turmeric has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory ability. Curcumin, the primary anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, is shown to be comparable to traditional over-the-counter drugs. Adding ginger or black pepper will increase its effectiveness.
Cherries have been used since the 1950s in the treatment of gout and arthritis. Studies confirm that cherries and cherry juice reduce inflammation and pain.
The lycopene in watermelon is a well-documented inhibitor of many inflammatory processes. A study conducted in Spain showed watermelon to be effective in preventing exercise-related muscle soreness.
The anti-inflammatory compounds, gingerols, have been shown to help reduce arthritis-related pain, as well as exercise-induced pain. Although this list is by no means complete, it highlights some of the most effective natural anti-inflammatories that can be found right in the produce department.