Living an active lifestyle puts extra stress on joints, often resulting in stiffness, soreness and swelling. The solution, however, might be as close as the refrigerator. To find the best inflammation-fighting foods to help ease the pain and speed up recovery, we spoke to Cynthia Sass, nutrition consultant of MLB’s New York Yankees and author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast.
“Diets low on magnesium have been linked to higher levels of inflammatory makers,” says Sass. Spinach is a top source of magnesium, and works great as a salad, or sautéed in a breakfast omelet or scrambled eggs.
+ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
“This Mediterranean staple contains a natural chemical called oleocanthal” that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a versatile heart-healthy cooking oil that can be used in the preparation of nearly all meats and vegetables, or as a base for salad dressing.
Related: Mediterranean Diet Plan
“In a study of over 250 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, those who received a ginger extract twice a day experienced less pain and needed fewer pain-killing meds compared to those who received a placebo,” says Sass. Add to a smoothie, chop some up and throw it into stir-fry, or simmer a few strips in hot water for a nice tea.
“This source of healthy fat has been shown to counter the inflammatory effect of eating a burger,” Sass says. “Men who ate the burger alone experienced a spike in the protein Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a measure of inflammation. But the burger plus avocado significantly reduced post-meal IL-6 levels.” Throw some avocado slices on your next burger to reduce your inflammation (and your guilt).
“Omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated equivalent effect in reducing arthritic pain compared to Ibuprofen,” says Sass. King Oscar makes sardines in a variety of flavors in snack-friendly tins (we’re particularly fond of the new Tapatio flavor). Bonus: they have more calcium per serving than a glass of milk.
+ Tart Cherry Juice
“One trial in older women with osteoarthritis pain found that participants who consumed two 10.5-ounce bottles of tart cherry juice experienced a statistically significant decrease in inflammation.” Add some to your post-workout shake to minimize soreness and to kick-start the recovery process.
“The active ingredient in this exotic spice, called curcurmin, has been shown to lower levels of two enzymes that fuel inflammation,” Sass says. Add some to your eggs in the morning with a bit of black pepper, or get creative and try your hand at an Indian or Moroccan dish.
– Avoid Sugary Drinks
“A recent Swiss study found that when young, healthy, normal-weight men consumed just 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened drinks daily over a three-week period, they experienced a spike in blood markers for inflammation,” Sass says. Try using an unsweetened flavored sparkling water like LaCroix (lacroixwater.com) as a substitute.
–By Billy Brown