Fitness · food · Running

Cherries Jubilee: An Ode to Anti-Inflammatory Foods

I had a special moment at the grocery store last week: I bought tart cherry juice for the first time since April. In my world, that means another marathon training cycle has settled in to roost.

Marathon training means becoming hyper-aware of your body: its energy, its appetites, its sluggishness, its tinglings, its singing (yes, bodies can sing), and everyone’s favorite: its discomforts.

A little soreness is inevitable, especially for those of us who already have a marathon or eleven under our belts. I think our legs, with experience, grow more apprehensive. They’re quicker to realize, “Hey, we’re not getting a massage…we’re training for another marathon! *&#@!!”

So the discomforts must be dealt with. Foam rollers are great. But sometimes, we need a little more. In which case A) We can take anti-inflammatory pills like it’s going out of style, or B) We can take to the refrigerator!

Yep, there are lots of foods that reduce inflammation. I like to remind myself of them at the start of each marathon training cycle, so I thought I’d share a few. I owe thanks to and for the information.

DISCLAIMERS: 1) I’m not a doctor. If you see anything below that’s incorrect, please correct me! And 2) All the cherry juice in the world will not cure you of an actual injury.

Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation.

Dark Chocolate has lots of magical things called flavonols (they’re also in milk chocolate, but to a lesser extent). Research suggests that these ease inflammation.

Basil, Garlic, Onions, and Olive Oil all work in a manner similar to NSAIDs [anything in the ibuprofen family], shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation.

Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which reduces levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood.

Dark green veggies, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens all contain vitamins that play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules.

Nuts, particularly almonds and walnuts. Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, and walnuts have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. I know, it’s science-y – but it all just translates to “inflammation fighters.”

Soy contains isoflavones, which can help lower inflammation levels, especially in women.

Hot peppers (like chili and cayenne) have lots of capsaicin, a chemical that reduces pain and inflammation. **NOTE, however: peppers are nightshade vegetables, which may exacerbate inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Tomatoes also reduce inflammation, but they, too, are a nightshade vegetable.

Beets and beetroot juice can reduce inflammation due to their fiber, vitamin C and plant pigments called betalains.

Ginger and turmeric. Turmeric helps to turn off NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation. Ginger, meanwhile, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines. Which could make those long runs much more comfortable. Just sayin’.

Berries have anti-inflammatory properties, possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that give them their rich color. Especially raspberries, blueberries, and….

Tart cherries. In a 2012 presentation, Oregon Health & Science University researchers suggested that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.” ‘Nuff said!

What other foods should I add to my list?



5 thoughts on “Cherries Jubilee: An Ode to Anti-Inflammatory Foods

  1. Love that list! Will have to check some out – don’t have inflammation issues, but can’t hurt! Couple of things:
    – Green Tea is also supposed to help fight inflammation in joints.
    – Olive oil – it is the oleocanthal that is anti-inflammatory, and it breaks down under heating. So it largely comes back to something a health-chef taught me at a fun seminar last summer – canola oil for cooking, olive oil at the end for flavor.

  2. T started running after several years of football and 7 knee surgeries.
    I have spent all of my running career keping the
    “flames ” down. But I have been running for over 25 years with no additional knee problems.

    Not that they haven’t been painful at times- but they have rarely stopped me.

    I have been a fan of cherry, garlic, Gluoc/Chondroitin and the BEST Turmeric blends ( and cooking with it as well)

    Thanks for the full list

    write on blog and


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