Whether you’re a fan of the gym, work out at home, or you’re a hardcore athlete, exercise is one of the best ways to take care of your body outside of eating nutritious foods. It’s also incredible for the brain since physical activity can help with the release of feel-good hormones and natural endorphins released during a workout. But all athletes know that exercise can cause natural inflammation in the muscles. The saying, “No pain, no gain” may ring true, but it doesn’t make you feel any better when your muscles are aching and swollen.
Your Best Weapon Against Inflammation
One of the best things you can do is eat an anti-inflammatory diet, which will help prevent inflammation and with recovery. These foods will create an alkaline state in the body that fight inflammation from the inside out. It’s also important to eat plant-based sources of protein with healthy sources of carbohydrates before and after a workout. Aside from common foods and athletic products like protein powders and vitamins, you may also want to consider adding some of the best herbs and spices into your routine. These provide powerful anti-inflammatory properties in small doses with very little known side effects or digestion difficulties.
Here are some of the best to fight inflammation in the muscle cells that can also be used for other health benefits and for multiple culinary uses.
Let’s start with one of the most well-known and best: turmeric. A root like ginger, this bright orange spice is amazing at healing inflammation in all parts of the body. It also assists with digestion and even benefits the brain. Sprinkle this on oatmeal, in a smoothie, on sweet potatoes, wild rice, or even a hearty salad and roasted veggies. You can also drink turmeric tea, add it to coconut milk, or just juice with the whole root itself (use just a bit since it’s potent).
This herb contains more chlorophyll than most vegetables and has 70 percent of your daily Vitamin C needs in a cup! While you might not want to eat a cup of parsley, adding some here and there either in fresh or dried form can help provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Try juicing or making a green smoothie with parsley, lemons, and another green like kale with a green apple. It’s delicious! You can also add a few fresh sprigs to a salad, an entree, or use dried forms of parsley in smoothies, as a topping on entrées, or drink it as a tea.
Cilantro is a wonderful herb with many of the same benefits of parsley. It’s also one of the top sources of chlorophyll to promote alkalinity and aids with digestion, hormone balance, and ridding the body of excess mercury and lead. Use cilantro in more than just salsa; it makes great additions to salads, can be chopped and included in dressings, hummus, can be added to smoothies, juiced with, or you can use the dried form literally anywhere. As a bonus, both cilantro and parsley are very inexpensive, even in organic form (which is preferable).
Oregano is one of nature’s greatest healers. It contains B vitamins, a large amount of chlorophyll and reduces inflammation in many parts of the body. If you suffer digestive issues, oregano can also help improve digestion and regularity. It will also help your muscles relax, which is a big plus for athletes who suffer from tension and stiffness. Use this herb fresh or dried in dishes of any kind, such as an alkalizing pasta. You can also steep it and drink it as a tea.
Ginger is also a helpful spice for reducing inflammation. It provides natural properties that help with pain, indigestion, stiffness, headaches, and just about any health woe you can imagine. It’s technically a root by nature but can be bought in spice form with other dried spices. If you can get your hands on fresh ginger from the produce department, optimize it however possible. Check out our tips to use ginger if you’re new to using it, or try a ginger tea, juice with it, add it to a smoothie, or peel it and shred into entrees.
Other Anti-Inflammatory Possibilities
Other helpful herbs for fighting inflammation may include basil, thyme, and mint. Other spices that help with pain include: cayenne, cinnamon, and cloves. These can be added anywhere and are incredibly delicious, though they may not be as strong or fast-acting as the five spices mentioned above. Use all of these antioxidant powerhouses anywhere you can as part of a whole foods, unprocessed plant-based diet for best results.
Also see An Anti-Inflammatory Diet That Can Transform Your Health, How Herbs and Spices Can Transform Your Health, Using Herbs to Flavor Your Foods: Tips and Tricks, Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for the Vegan Athlete, and Teas, Herbs, and Spices That Promote Balance in the Body for more uses and ideas.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
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