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While inflammation may sound like the horrendous source of all your post-workout soreness and back pain, inflammation is actually a natural response by your body to a stressful situation. While exercise (endurance or strength and conditioning) is a complementary stress—you are literally breaking down muscle tissue to build it back again stronger—it’s still a stress, and can increase inflammation in your body. The swelling, redness and pain that inflammation is known to cause is not your friend if you want to train again sooner to get stronger, and chronic inflammation is linked to more serious illnesses. By adding anti-inflammatory foods that help to promote health, and reduce excessive inflammation, you can start to manage post-workout soreness, reduce recovery time and train again sooner.

1. Fresh turmeric

Turmeric gets its vibrant yellow-orange color from curcumin, a phenolic compound found exclusively in this anti-inflammatory root. Curcuminoids scavenge your body  for damaging particles in the body known as free-radicals1, which can be caused by everything from aging, working out, exposure to environmental pollutants, dietary consumption of processed foods, to cooking fats at too high of temperature. Turmeric also has potent antioxidants, like glutathione (GSH), Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), and Coenzyme Q10, that help fight inflammation and promote good health2. To get the most out of turmeric, opt for the fresh root instead of the powdered spice—grating it into dishes or blending it into a protein shake like this one.

Turmeric Carrot Protein Shake

Ingredients

¼-1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder or ½ inch fresh turmeric root

½ cup grated carrot

½ cup mango

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½ cup ice

1 cup water

1 serving Vega Protein & Greens

Preparation

Blend until smooth

Enjoy 45-90 minutes post-workout

2. Dark leafy greens

What aren’t dark leafy greens good for? These nutrient dense superpowers contain antioxidants vitamin C, and E, as well as carotenoids and flavonoids—all which fight against inflammation. Beyond your usual salads and stir-fries, try using big leaves for a wrap substitute like in these Collard Greens Wraps.

3. Goji berries

These delightfully sweet (and sometimes super dry) berries are a rich source of the antioxidant zeaxanthin. An isomer to lutein, zeaxanthin is connected to eye health.3

4. Flax, chia, and hemp seeds

Flax, chia and hemp seeds are all plant-based sources of anti-inflammatory ALA Omega-3s. Increasing your consumption of Omega-3s seems to reduce biological markers of inflammation.4

5. SaviSeeds

The richest source of plant-based Omega-3s on the planet—17 times more than salmon—SaviSeeds are also a great protein and fiber-rich snack. Just a small handful (one ounce) provides 6 grams of Omega-3s!

6. Tart cherries

When you’re puckering up and eating unsweetened dried tart cherries or drinking a 100% tart cherry juice concentrate, you can be sure you’re consuming plenty of anthocyanins, which can block inflammation while helping to prevent muscle damage.5 Add tart cherry juice to your post-workout drink to gain benefits, or eat a couple as an after-dinner treat.

7. Garlic

The world’s most loved flavoring agent, garlic is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds diallyl sulfide (DAS) and thiacremonone.6 Just one clove of garlic offers many compounds that are known to help lower inflammation and increase circulation, such as phosphorus, selenium, zinc, polyphenols, arginine and vitamins B6 and C.

8. Kimchi

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Whether you prefer to eat your probiotics in kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, or a pill, these healthy bacteria help to support digestive health and fight inflammation. 7

9. Cayenne

Bring the heat and add more capsicum frutescens (cayenne) to your life. Cayenne stimulates circulation and blood flow when used topically, to naturally reduce muscle soreness.8 Look for a topical rub that includes cayenne as an ingredient.

References:

1. Jurkenka, J. (2009) Anti-inflammatory Properties of Curcumin, a Major Constituent Of Curcuma longa: A Review of Preclinical and Clinical Research. Alternative Medicine Review; 14:2. 141-154.

2. Health Canada. (2012). Natural Health Products Database Monograph: Turmeric-oral. Accessed 6.15.14 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=216&lang=eng

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3. Hammond BR, Fletcher LM, Roos F, Wittwer J, Schalch W. (2014). A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on photostress recovery, glare disability, and chromatic contrast. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 55(12):8583-9.

4. Giugliano, D., Ceriello, A., and Esposito, K (2006). The Effects of Diet on Inflammation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 48 (4). Accessed 7/24/13 from http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1137818&issueno=4

5. Connolly, DA et al. (2006).Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 40(8):679-83. Accessed 7/1/13 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2579450

6. Ban JO, et al. (2009). Anti-inflammatory and arthritic effects of thiacremonone, a novel sulfur compound isolated from garlic via inhibition of NF-kappaB. Arthritis Research and Therapy. 11(5):R145. Accessed 7/1/13 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2787296/

7. Jirillo E, Jirillo F, Magrone T. (2012). Healthy effects exerted by prebiotics, probiotics, and symbiotics with special reference to their impact on the immune system. International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 200-8

8. Gagnier JJ, van Tulder M, Berman B, Bombardier C. (2006). Herbal Medicine for Low Back Pain. Cochrane Database System Review. Health Canada. (2014). Natural Health Products Database: Monograph Cayenne.  Accessed on 7/10/14 from: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=cayenne&lang=eng

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