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Importance of Anti-Inflammatory Foods in Recovery


Paint the Picture


Imagine I give you two plates of foods.


Calories are the same...

Macros are the same...


Plate A consists of:


Chicken nuggets

Fried cheese bites

Chips

Ketchup


Plate B consists of:


Roasted chicken breast

New potatoes with kidney beans

Olive oil, balsamic and mint dressing

Crumble of fresh Feta cheese


Which one is better for you?


Which one will make you feel amazing?


Which one will have an impact on your mental and physical health long-term?


Calories and macros are matched the same remember...


With me?


Read ahead.


What is inflammation?


Inflammation is a response of the immune system to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells (injury) or irritants.


The purpose of inflammation is to clear out damaged cells and tissues to initiate and allow for tissue repair.


Inflammation is a normal and protective response but chronic inflammation can lead to various health issues, unresolved injury and chronic disease.


Interleukins play a crucial role in the communication between cells of the immune system.


Inflammation has a stimulating response to elevate proteins that recruit immune cells to repair and enhance the body's defence mechanisms.


For example, IL-6 is involved in tissue repair and regeneration, contributing to the resolution of inflammation and operating in a delicate balance with both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory functions.


However, persistent inflammation (chronic inflammation) can contribute to the development and progression of various diseases.


Our Modern Diets Have Very Common Promoters of Inflammation


Many studies look into the potential link between the foods that we consume and inflammation. The following foods and beverages in excess may cause inflammation:

  • White breads, cakes, pastries (white flour)

  • Fries and deep-fried food

  • Sugar-sweetened pop and carbonated drinks

  • Processed meats such as burgers, sausages, bacon, chicken dippers etc

  • Margarine, shortening and lard.

A healthy diet is unlikely to aggravate inflammation and following recommendations to use foods that don't show signs of aggravating inflammation further are of benefit when we are in a state of recovery, injured or sick.


Anti-inflammatory is Not the Same as Pro-Resolution


When we are injured or ill, inflammation will occur at a cellular level to assist with regeneration and building defences.


However, sometimes we may clear the infection but the issues persist.


This is where our onboard SPMs (specialised pro-resolving mediators) may have been depleted through healing the injury and inflammation leaving little for us to continue resolution.


SPMs promote the resolution of inflammation and we can acquire them through the diet.

LIST OF SPMS

Fatty Fish:


Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are precursors to SPMs.


Flax and chia seeds:


Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that can be converted into EPA and DHA in the body, contributing to SPM production.


Walnuts:


Walnuts contain ALA and can contribute to the omega-3 fatty acid pool, which serves as a basis for the production of SPMs.


Grass-Fed Meat:


Meat from animals that are grass-fed or pasture-raised tends to have a better omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio, supporting a balanced inflammatory response.


Leafy Greens:


Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard contain various nutrients, including omega-3 precursors, that support the resolution of inflammation.


Brussels Sprouts:


Brussels sprouts contain compounds that can promote a balanced inflammatory response, contributing to the overall resolution of inflammation. You might also try using mustard with green vegetables to assist further.


Curcumin/Turmeric:


Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties and may support the resolution of inflammation.


Blueberries:


Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, which can have anti-inflammatory effects and contribute to overall immune health.


Pro-Inflammatory Diet:


There are associations between the consumption of processed foods, refined sugars, unhealthy fats and pro-inflammatory states.


These dietary choices can lead to chronic inflammation, a key contributor to various health issues, including delayed recovery.


Foods high in trans fats, refined carbohydrates and excessive sugars trigger an inflammatory response in the body, leading to issues with cardiovascular health.


Anti-Inflammatory Diet:


An anti-inflammatory diet, emphasises whole, nutrient-dense foods that help reduce inflammation.


Incorporating fruits, vegetables, fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidant-rich nuts and seeds can combat inflammation, promoting overall well-being.


For athletes who are older or recovering from injuries, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is crucial.


It not only accelerates recovery but also enhances energy.


A Day of High Performance with Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Meal

Food

Benefit

1

Oats with a protein powder with chia, apples, nuts and almond milk

Provides omega-3 fats

2

Dates with dark chocolate

Mineral rich snack that may improve immunity.

3

Salmon fillet, rainbow salad, cooked grains and avocado

Omega-3-rich fish with healthy plant-based fats and low glycemic carbs.

4

Apple with almond butter and pea protein

Post-workout energy boost with plant proteins.

5

Prawn stir fry with veggies and brown rice, dressed with olive oil.

Mineral-rich and packed with olive oil, rich in antioxidants.



This day's plan includes foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties.


Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, nuts, and seeds, combined with antioxidants from colourful fruits and vegetables, provide nutrients to support recovery.


Food Swaps


If you assess what you're currently eating, here's a potential; list of swaps.

Meal

Pro-Inflammatory

Anti-Inflammatory

Breakfast

Toast with jam

Wholegrain toast with avocado and eggs

Lunch

Fried chicken sandwich or wraps

​Chicken salad with beans and whole grains, dressed with olive oil.

Dinner

Beef burger with fries

Turkey steaks seasoned with cumin and paprika with sweet potato mash and balsamic

Snacks

Crisps, fried items, chocolate bars

Carrot sticks, kombucha, houmous, dark chocolate, yoghurt, nuts, nut butter and seeds

Justifications:

  • Whole Grains: Swapping refined grains for whole grains provides fibre and essential nutrients that contribute to lower inflammation.

  • Lean Proteins: Opting for lean proteins promotes muscle recovery without excess saturated fats.

  • Colourful Vegetables: Adding more vegetables to meals provides a wide range of antioxidants that combat inflammation and support recovery.

An anti-inflammatory diet is not just a dietary choice; it's a lifestyle change that can significantly impact the health and performance of individuals, especially those recovering from injuries or as we age with our sports.


Making informed food choices contributes not only to accelerated recovery but also to overall health.

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