Jill Daniels, MS, RD, CSSD
Inflammation can be a good thing. Or a bad thing.
Temporary inflammation, or acute inflammation, happens when the body is repairing an injury or fighting off an infection. Once the problem has ended, the body returns to its normal state. For athletes, this is an important part of the muscle strengthening process and can help make the body more resistant to muscle damage in the future.
Long term, or chronic inflammation is when the immune system stays in a state of high alert and ends up causing damage to the body. Athletes who train hard on a regular basis and don’t get enough rest may not have enough time between workouts to heal adequately, and the body stays in a cycle of chronic inflammation. This can negatively affect both the muscles and joints, and can also contribute to many long-term diseases, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. There are several major causes of inflammation including unmanaged stress, lack of sleep, environmental pollutants and an unhealthy diet.
The good news is that researchers have found that a healthy diet can help in the prevention and reduction of chronic inflammation. Here are some foods to eat more frequently, and the reasons why:
Fatty fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds for healthy fats, antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds. Great sources include salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel as well as almonds and walnuts.
Fruits and vegetables for fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Tomatoes, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards) and fruits (oranges, strawberries, blueberries, cherries) are delicious choices you can eat on a daily basis.
Beans, lentils and whole grains are high in fiber and other nutrients shown to decrease inflammation.
Striving for an overall healthy diet will help you both short term and long term. Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, states “a healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life.”
Keep in mind, however, that even the healthiest diet won’t be able to overcome chronic high stress and lack of sleep. Make sure to consider all of these different areas of health so that you can strive to feel great both now and in the future.
Foods that Fight Inflammation