Protein from lean meats, legumes, nuts and low-fat dairy. Protein digests into the amino acids needed to repair damaged muscles; your body needs a steady stream of amino acids to promote healing, especially after physical therapy. You need extra protein post-injury or surgery, so be sure to include 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal and snack. That amount of protein equates to one of these:
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 3 to 4 ounces of meat, poultry or fish
- Two-thirds of a 14-ounce cake of firm tofu or 1.25 cups of hummus
While you might see ads for amino acid supplements including arginine, ornithine and glutamine, you can get those amino acids via food.
Plant and fish oils. The fats in olive and canola oils, peanut butter, nuts and other nut butters, ground flaxseeds, flax oil and avocado have an anti-inflammatory effect. So do omega-3 fish oils. Eat at least two or three fish meals per week, preferably the oilier fish such as Pacific salmon, barramundi and albacore tuna. Reduce your intake of the omega-6 fats in packaged foods with “partially hydrogenated oils” listed among the ingredients, and in processed foods containing corn, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and soy oils. Too much of these might contribute to inflammation.
More: 5 Oils Perfect for Everyday Use
Vitamins. By consuming a strong intake of colorful fruits and vegetables, you'll get more nutrition than in a vitamin pill. Fruits and veggies have powerful anti-oxidants that knock down inflammation. Don’t underestimate the healing powers of blueberries, strawberries, carrots, broccoli and pineapple. Make smoothies using tart cherry juice, PomWonderful pomegranate juice and grape juice.
Minerals. Many runners, particularly those who eat little or no red meat, might need a boost of iron. Blood tests for serum ferritin can determine if your iron stores are low. If they are, your doctor will prescribe an iron supplement. You might also want a little extra zinc (10 to 15 mg) to enhance healing.
Herbs, spices and botanicals. Anti-inflammatory compounds are in turmeric (a spice used in curry), garlic, cocoa, green tea, and most plant foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. For therapeutic doses of herbs and spices, you likely want to take them in pill-form. Yet, consuming these herbs and spices on a daily basis, in sickness and in health, lays a strong foundation for a quick recovery.
More: What to Eat for a Faster Recovery
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