All runners experience some level of inflammation. When you exercise, your muscles breakdown and afterwards you feel sore, which is an inflammatory response. But just because it’s the reason you feeling a little achy post-workout, inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing—in fact, it’s actually what helps initiate the healing and rebuilding process.
Inflammation is our body’s natural and vital response to stress, injury, illness, and infection. However, it can become a problem when it’s chronic, and that’s where diet and lifestyle play a huge role. Chronic inflammation can be caused by stress, lack of sleep, and processed foods. A diet high in sugar, refined vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates, dairy, and factory-farmed meat can trigger unhealthy levels of inflammation. Many diseases, from heart disease to cancer, are now associated with chronic inflammation.
Due to so much uncertainty right now, many of us are experiencing high levels of stress. To combat this stress, we can pop pills and supplements, or we can fill our plates with anti-inflammatory foods. Personally, since I love to eat, I’d rather improve my ailments with delicious home-cooked meals. A bowl of soup is so restorative after a stressful day. An avocado can improve your mood. A smoothie made with fresh ginger can relieve bloating.
We should all lean into food as one of our best resources for healing. And lucky for you, there is a long list of delicious and accessible foods that can help our bodies heal. My favorite anti-inflammatory foods include:
- spices like ginger and turmeric
- fresh herbs like parsley and basil
- leafy greens like kale and arugula
- wild salmon and sardines
- nuts and seeds
- extra-virgin olive oil
- whole grains
- berries and pineapple
- bone broth
- green tea
- and of course, dark chocolate (70% or higher cocoa content).
There’s another benefit to these delicious and nourishing foods: they’re soothing to your digestive system. Digestion plays such a vital role in keeping the rest of our body healthy. If your digestion is suffering, this can be a sign of chronic inflammation. Keeping a food journal for a couple weeks can help you identify and eliminate problem foods and discover which whole foods leave you feeling your best.
Looking for more meal inspiration? Check out one of my favorite summer breakfast recipes for recharging and soothing inflammation after a morning run.
Elyse Kopecky is a nutrition coach, chef, and two-time New York Times best-selling author. In her new exclusive “Food Is Fuel” monthly column, the co-author of Run Fast. Eat Slow. and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. will explore everything women want to know about how to fuel—from breakfast to snacks, to recovery, and on-the-go foods. Have a topic you’d like to have Elyse talk about? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.