Paddle Healthy: Top 5 Foods For Fighting Inflammation

If you work out, inflammation is a physiological certainty. From muscles battling to recover from the tear down of exercise to joints that have received yet another pounding to the ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues that take the strain, your body is continually struggling to recover. Though standup paddling is non-impact, it still puts stress on your musculo-skeletal system and taxes your shoulders, elbows, wrists and other joints.
A lot of people – everyone from recreational athletes to pros – have taken to popping ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory pills like candy before and after exercise. But this inhibits your body’s recovery signals and can, over time, lead to organ damage. As with most things in the world of sports, you’re better off turning to nature, instead. Going beyond the best-known inflammation fighters – fish and flax oil – here are five other foods that can help you recover from your time on the board:

1) Walnuts
Omega-6 fats can be heart-healthy, but most of us overload on them while neglecting Omega-3 fats. The result is yet more inflammation. Thankfully, walnuts have both, and also a richer taste than most other Omega-6 dominated nuts. Put a handful in cereal, eat them by themselves, or mix with dried fruit for a healthy and natural trail mix.

2) Curry
People in India, Thailand and Pakistan have high-fat diets and don’t eat a lot of whole grains, yet their heart disease rates are far lower than most Western nations. What gives? One contributing factor is the turmeric, curcumin and the other spices found in curry dishes, which do more per ounce to reduce swelling than just about any other food. If you have time to cook your own curries or go to Indian or Thai restaurants where the dishes are made from scratch then do, as many bottled curry sauces are very high in sodium and contain artificial preservatives.

3) Chia
Remember the silly Chia pet craze from a few years ago? Well, it turns out the seeds themselves aren’t silly at all when it comes to fighting inflammation. Popularized in the running community by Chris McDougall in his bestseller Born to Run, chia seeds are used as all-day fuel by the Tarahumara tribes people of Mexico, who can keep going for hours on them. They’re higher in Omega-3s than salmon, and are also rich in magnesium and fiber. Put the seeds in yogurt, cereal and muffins or just follow the Tarahumara example of leaving them to stand in a glass of water with a touch of lime, and drinking after a few minutes.

4) Pineapple
We learned a lot of useful things from Laird Hamilton’s Force of Nature book, and one of them is the power of pineapple. Though we can’t all be like Laird and grow this fruit on our land, we should add it into our diets because it contains the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain. It’s also high in vitamin C and tastes great fresh, frozen and blended in smoothies.

5) Black Tea
Though its cousin, green tea, gets most of the health-related press (and rightly so), we shouldn’t overlook black tea when trying to recover from a workout or a long paddle. It is rich in theaflavins and thearubigins, which have been shown to tame inflammation and even reduce cancer risk. Can’t stomach plain English breakfast tea? Then try spicy chai, another Indian health secret, which is even better at curbing inflammation due to the spices added to it. —Phil White

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