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Whole, Plant-based Foods for Sports Injuries

Kayla Slater

Aug 18, 2019

Have you ever had a running related injury? It’s debilitating and frustrating, I know. And could take weeks up to months to heal. Or could even be chronic.

Nutrition can play a role in healing. In acute or chronic injuries, inflammation occurs in an attempt for the injured area to heal. The foods you eat can help control the reaction of the inflammatory response. The foods you want to eat more of are called anti-inflammatory foods!

So what should your diet look like? Well according to D. Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RDN and Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RDN of Plant-based Sports Nutrition, your diet should focus on “whole, plant-based foods rich in healthy fats and phytonutrients, along with increased plant proteins, decreased processed carbohydrates, and the avoidance of overconsumption of calories.”

Here are nutrients you may want to consider to delay the inflammatory response of your injury.

  1. Healthy fats (omega 3s) - eat more omega 3s. Omega 3s are known to reduce inflammation, but unfortunately there are limited studies in showing the evidence of this in sports injuries. But it does not hurt to try. Your goal would be to improve the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

  2. Phytonutrients - eat more foods with phytonutrients! Phytonutrients act as anti-inflammatory agents to reduce the inflammatory response and make work similar to taking anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. Phytonutrients are found in fruits and vegetables. Examples include beets, dark chocolate, cherries, etc.

  3. Fiber - fiber reduces inflammatory markers in the blood. Try to choose more whole-grains over processed carbohydrates like white breads and pasta. Whole-grains include whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat wraps, brown rice, and popcorn.

  4. Vitamin D - in addition to playing a role in bones, Vitamin D also plays a role in the body’s inflammatory response. Unfortunately, most of our vitamin D comes from the sun and very little is found in plant sources except mushrooms treated with UV light. A supplement may be beneficial.

Herbs and spices may also have anti-inflammatory properties. Here are some herbs and plant products that are anti-inflammatory (list compiled from various sources in Plant-based Sports Nutrition):

  • Herbs and spices: basil, oregano, green tea, turmeric, ginseng, ginger

  • Other: Pomegranate juice, olive oil, tomatoes, grape skins, red onion, kale, cranberry, apples

Hope this helps you heal faster to get back out running stronger than ever!

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