If you're an endurance athlete, there's really no way around it: At some point, your body is going to experience inflammation in your muscles, joints, digestive system—or all of the above. That's the bad news.
The good news? There are plenty of foods that can help reduce inflammation and aid your body's recovery from all that strenuous exercise. The following 11 foods are on the anti-inflammatory list.
Avocados1 of 10
Avocados are a rich source of anti-inflammatory monounsaturated "good" fats and phytosterols. These are especially important nutrients for high-impact athletes, including runners and triathletes, who are prone to inflammation of the joints. The vitamin E and C, manganese, selenium and zinc in avocados also helps to soothe inflammation. Sprinkle half of an avocado with salt and pepper and eat it by itself, or top these Tequila-Lime Mahi Mahi Tacos with fresh avocado slices.
Berries2 of 10
A recent study shows athletes who ate blueberries prior to and after 2.5 hours of running experienced less inflammation and oxidative stress in their bodies. Berries work their anti-inflammatory magic via powerful antioxidant compounds like proanthocyanidins and ellagic acid. Toss a handful of berries into oatmeal or a salad, or try this Blueberry Pie Smoothie recipe that includes both fresh and dried blueberries.
Citrus Fruits3 of 10
The antioxidants in lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit may help reduce inflammation. Specifically, the vitamin C found in citrus fruits helps reduce swelling or inflammation in the lungs, which is especially beneficial for athletes with asthma. Lemons cleanse and alkalize the body. Add lemon juice to your water or salad dressing or have a glass of this Rosemary-Honey Lemonade with your next meal.
Dark, Leafy Greens and Ginger4 of 10
Studies have shown that vitamin E may play a significant role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines. One of the best sources of vitamin E is dark, leafy greens such as kale. Also, ginger shares many properties with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It's been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines and sooth the stomach—helpful for athletes who suffer from stomach and intestinal issues. Try adding ginger and dark leafy greens such as kale, to juices and smoothies, like this one.
Fatty Fish5 of 10
Oily fish, including salmon, sardines and tuna, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with joint swelling and inflammation generally caused by the over consumption of omega-6 fatty acids found in red meat and most processed foods. According to the Ironman Sports Medicine Institute, we consume about 10 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats. Ideally, these fats should be balanced. Top your next salad with a piece of wild salmon or tuna, or try this Asian Salmon Bowl with Lime Drizzle.
Garlic6 of 10
In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, athletes ate garlic before sporting events. That's because the compounds in the pungent bulb act as anti-inflammatory agents and inhibit pain. Garlic is a versatile vegetable and can be added to everything from soups and stews to pastas and this chicken dish.
Peppers7 of 10
Sweet bell peppers and spicy chili peppers are packed with the phytochemical capsaicin. Capsaicin reduces inflammation in the body by lowering levels of a compound known as substance P, which triggers inflammation and pain impulses. Red peppers are also filled with salicylates compounds, which are similar to aspirin. Try these Chard and Bacon Quiche and Shrimp and Grits recipes, which both include peppers.
Tart Cherries8 of 10
The anthocyanins, which make tart cherries red, may relieve muscle pain more than aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, according to research done at Michigan State University. Linda Samuels, the nutrition coach for the Northwestern University triathlon team, seconds the findings in that research. She says that tart cherries are one of the best anti-inflammatory foods. "I recommend 2 tablespoons of tart cherry concentrate twice a day for Ironman athletes," Samuels says. "You can add this to Greek yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal."
Yogurt and Honey9 of 10
The probiotics found in yogurt and other fermented foods supply the body with good gut bacteria and helps it reduce inflammation. Raw honey may boost your performance and your immune system with its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Add honey and yogurt to salad dressings or marinades, or top Greek yogurt with raw honey for an inflammation-fighting breakfast.