Photo credit by Laura Barisonzi

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The 8 best inflammation fighting foods

You crushed your workout, but you wake up feeling sore. Why? Inflammation decided to visit.

Inflammation is a vital balancing act. It’s your body’s response to working out hard and pushing your limits.

People hear the word inflammation and think of swollen knees, tight joints, and ice packs. Fears of being sidelined with strains, sprains, and other annoying injuries soon follow.

Inflammation: the double-edged sword

You need enough inflam­mation to trigger a physiological response, which makes your body fitter and stronger. This helps your body recover after a workout, but not so much inflammation that it slows the body’s natural repair process.

Inflammation is your immune system’s protective mechanism against injury, foreign substances, and infection. When your immune system senses something is wrong it expands the blood vessels leading to the injured area and seals off those leading away from it.

Your body responds by sending in inflammatory cytokines and white blood cells to help out. Cytokines and white blood cells work hard to repair and rebuild your injured muscles and ligaments. When the trauma or infection has been reduced, the cytokines leave the area and the swelling goes down and your recovery speeds up.

OK, I understand what inflammation is, but how do I combat it with food? 

You probably already know such things as a good cool down, rest days and ice baths are helpful to combat inflammation. However, many people forget their nutrition is vital to combat inflammation from the inside out. After all, Mother Nature has provided us everything we need to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The 8 best inflammation fighting foods

1. Tart Cherries: they have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.


Studies have found that tart cherry juice can reduce the inflammation in lab rats’ blood vessels by up to 50%; in humans, meanwhile, it’s been shown to help athletes improve their performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain meds.

2. Berries: All fruits can help fight inflammation since they’re low in fat and calories and high in antioxidants.


Berries are especially great because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich color.

3. Olive Oil: A 2010 Spanish study found that the Mediterranean diet’s health benefits may be largely due to its liberal use of olive oil, especially the extra-virgin kind.


Oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, has been shown to have a similar effect as NSAID painkillers in the body, which help combat inflammation.

4. Beets: This vegetable is blessed with amazing antioxidant properties.


Beet and beetroot juice have been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their hearty helping of fiber, vitamin C and plant pigments called betalains.

5. Low Fat Dairy: Milk products are sometimes considered a trigger food for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, because some people have allergies or intolerances to casein, the protein found in dairy. But for people who can tolerate it, low fat and nonfat milk are an important source of nutrients.


Yogurt can also contain probiotics, which can reduce gut inflammation. One of my favorite go-to breakfasts is plain Greek yogurt with walnuts, chia seeds, berries and a teaspoon of honey…protein, fiber and a lot of great antioxidants, not to mention great taste!

6. Nuts: A great source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats are nuts—particularly almonds, which are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, and walnuts, which have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat.


All nuts are packed with antioxidants, which can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation.

7. Dark Leafy Greens: Studies have suggested that vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from the pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines (remember the Science lesson from above).


One of the best sources of this vitamin are dark green veggies, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens.

8. Fatty Fish: Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation.


To get the benefits, however, you need to eat fish several times a week, and it should be cooked in healthy ways: grilled, baked or boiled fish as opposed to fried, dried, or salted.

Photo Credit in Nike Jacket by Laura Barisonzi