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Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods For Runners

cherriesAfter reading a recent article about cherry juice being the next big sports drink due to its anti-inflammatory punch, I went on the hunt for additional anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation) food items that could help all runners keep the tread on the road or trail.

I came across NutritionData’s fairly sophisticated inflammation calculation system called the IF (Inflammation Factor) Rating system created by licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel.

The formula used to calculate the IF Rating of a food item is based on more than 20 characteristics that include:

  • amount and type of fat
  • essential fatty acids
  • vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • glycemic index
  • anti-inflammatory compounds

In essence, a food item that has a positive IF Rating has anti-inflammatory affect on the body and a negative IF Rating has an inflammatory affect on the body. Also, the larger (more positive) the IF Rating, the greater the anti-inflammatory properties of that food item. In today’s super-size me world, bigger is actually better when we talk IF Rating.

Michaela over at Edible Evolution put together a list of top anti-inflammatory foods items from a number of categories (spices, fish, vegetables, nuts & seeds, legumes, poultry, dairy, cereals, fats & oils, fruits, sauces & soups) based on the IF (Inflammation Factor) Rating system at NutritionData.

It appears 100 grams was the serving size used for all items in the list. Unfortunately this serving size didn’t quite work for me because nobody is going to be eating 100 grams of garlic powder in a sitting so I have re-verified/updated the below items and noted a more appropriate serving size as well.

Here are some of the top items from the compiled list along with their IF Rating for the spices, vegetables, and fruits categories.

  • Garlic Powder (1 teaspoon) – 858
  • Cayenne Powder (1 teaspoon) – 494
  • Ginger, ground (1 teaspoon) – 482
  • Collards, frozen (1 cup) – 466
  • Spinach, cooked (1 cup) – 466
  • Carrots, chopped and raw (1 cup) – 209
  • Acerola (west Indian cherry), raw (1 cup) – 684
  • Acerola juice, raw (1 fl oz) – 203
  • Avocado, raw sliced (1 cup) – 113

Mike Adams from Natural News also includes some general guidelines for an anti-inflammatory diet:

  • 90% plant-based foods (or more)
  • Fresh produce at every meal
  • No processed foods (made in a factory)
  • No fried foods, no cheap oils
  • Lots of cold-refined, extra virgin olive oil
  • Lots of avocados, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.
  • The best anti-inflammatory juices are cucumber and celery
  • Lots of superfoods (berries, sprouts, etc.)
  • Green tea and water as your beverages
  • Lots of raw walnuts, pecans and other nuts

Adams also provides a list of food items you want to reduce/eliminate from you diet because they add to inflammation in the body.

  • Fried foods
  • Cheese, milk and dairy products
  • Sodas and diet soft drinks
  • Meats and animal products (especially processed meats like bacon, sausage, etc.)
  • Charred foods (BBQ, etc.)
  • Sugar
  • Partially-hydrogenated oils
  • Artificial food colors
  • MSG, yeast extract and other excitotoxins
  • Processed salt (sodium)
  • Foods cooked at high temperatures (pizza, bread, snack chips, etc.)

How To Use This Information

Look for ways of putting some of the anti-inflammatory foods into your culinary lifestyle and removing some of the less desirable items.

You don’t have to be perfect. Work on what you think you can add to your diet and build from there. This is not a diet per-se but a lifestyle change. So it will take some effort to change those old thought/purchasing patterns but it can be done.

I still eat many of the items in the inflammation list periodically but the quantites have significantly gone down through the years. Over the last seven years my family has completely taken out partially-hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, MSG, processed meats, fried foods, and continually move more into an anti-inflammatory diet/lifestyle.

Inflammation management is not only beneficial for your athletic journey it is also beneficial for your overall health. Explore and see if it makes sense to you. Then act at a pace that works for you!

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

2 Responses to “Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods For Runners”

  1. on 08 Sep 2013 at 12:12 pm Sarita

    I want to congratulate you and thank you for this article. I came across it searching for best anti-inflammatory whole foods: primarily vegetables and fruits. The rest of the information about what we should not consume is also great; as well as everything else that you list is good for IF! You have it all in a nutshell, easy to understand, brief and to the point. If we would all pay attention to the way we eat and everything you say in this article, people will not be popping medications that are making them sicker than the actual ailments people have. I have been curing myself of arthritis, painful joints and overall bodily pains through diet and herbal supplements; plus being active, exercising and taking care of my emotional and mental wellbeing. It is all about the physical combined with the mind, soul, spirit; balancing all will make us free of medications, healthy and happy beings.
    Thank you again, David! 🙂

  2. on 08 Oct 2013 at 9:09 am David Hanenburg

    Sarita – Glad you enjoyed the article. 🙂 peace