My lunches needed to change.
Training for a marathon has a lot of caveats. The biggest one, of course, is that you actually have to run 26.2 miles in the end. But you have to do a lot of other things, too. You have to take care of your body and specifically make time for things like foam rolling. You also have to be mindful about what you eat. With the Boston Marathon on my bucket list, I knew it was time to get my mind and body right. Triggered by a little bit of pain in my lower back (screw you, arthritis) and my left hip (ugh, Spin classes), I wondered if there was anything I could do differently with my diet to better my situation. And that's when a friend of mine recommended eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
An anti-inflammatory diet, you say? I wondered, and then I did my research. Essentially, an anti-inflammatory diet consists of the same healthy, unprocessed foods a lot of popular diets recommend, plus being mega attentive to nutrition labels, trying to avoid added, unnecessary sugar. The goal is eliminating foods known to trigger inflammation in the body. Although eating anti-inflammatory foods is definitely trendy, like Bulletproof Coffee or the Paleo diet, research definitely reveals its total-body benefits. Studies show that unresolved inflammation has been linked to the early development of chronic disease.
"There are many foods that can help to combat inflammation in the body," says Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. "A diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants is your best defense against inflammation."
Building blocks. I could work with this, I thought. Rumsey gave me some more guidelines as to what specifically to hone in on, which seemed a lot like a Mediterranean diet. Think things like fatty fish, boatloads of fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes, berries ("berries, especially, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties due to the high content of anthocyanin, a powerful phytonutrient"), and tomatoes — for their high concentration of lycopene, which reduces inflammation. Also: whole grains, olive oil, and foods with unsaturated fats, like avocado and seeds. On the "DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT IT" list: large amounts of refined sugar, highly processed foods (see ya later, Friday pizza nights), and too much alcohol.
My task: stick to this clean way of eating for a week to see if I felt any all-over body shifts. Here are four lessons I learned from my week of eating an anti-inflammatory diet.