BUY: Fortified cereal
WHY: It contains zinc, a proven asset to the immune system and to healing wounds. Along with red meat, fortified cereals are the best sources (some deliver 100 percent of your recommended daily value). By itself, zinc doesn't repair damaged tissue, but it assists the nutrients that do.
"Just don't overdo it," Sass cautions, adding that too much—more than 40 grams a day for an adult—of this potent mineral lowers HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and actually suppresses your immune system. Cereal supplies moderate zinc doses as well as whole-grain carbohydrates, which fuel your body's healing efforts and keep it from dipping into protein for energy. "Eating enough carbs ensures that your body puts all of its available protein toward repairs," Sass explains.
BUY: Salmon, tuna and trout
WHY: In addition to an added protein bonus, fish is packed with omega-3s, fatty acids which quench the inflammation that slows recovery from tendinitis, bone fractures and sprained ligaments.
A Little Inflammation Goes A Long Way
Most of us heed our doctor's advice to use rest, ice, compression and elevation to reduce inflammation and speed recovery. But should we also rely on anti-inflammatory measures such as cortisone injections, large doses of ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs?
In a 2010 study done at the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio, researchers concluded that these measures may actually slow healing and that moderation is key. They observed that in acute muscle injuries, inflammatory cells (called macrophages) aided growth that sped muscle regeneration.
In other words, a little inflammation actually facilitates healing. This makes anti-inflammatory foods, such as fish and berries, particularly valuable to cyclists on the mend. "These foods throw a big bucket of water on inflammation, but they don't put the fire out entirely," says dietitian Cynthia Sass.Balance your diet with Active Nutrition.