Anti-Inflammatory Foods Help You Heal Faster

It's easy to develop poor eating habits when you spend most of your day in your car or walking a beat. I didn't cut out the junk food until I started working undercover. I'd learned that if I wanted to keep my energy up and stay sharp, I had to fuel my body with healthy food.

Author Alicia Hilton Web Headshot

Working in law enforcement takes a toll on your body β€” chasing suspects down litter-strewn alleys and over fences; long surveillances without adequate bathroom breaks; wearing sky-high heels while posing as a decoy; getting jumped during a buy-bust gone bad; and training too hard at the gym.

At some point in your career, you'll probably have worn cartilage, torn tendons or ligaments, bruises, blisters, and contusions. It's hard to be an effective law enforcement officer when you're in pain and weak from an injury. Stress and lack of sleep cause hormone fluctuations that make pain worse, and simple dietary changes can help your injuries heal faster and reduce your pain.

It's easy to develop poor eating habits when you spend most of your day in your car or walking a beat. When I first became an FBI special agent and worked a lot of surveillance, my typical lunch was chicken nuggets, pastries, and hot chocolate. I didn't cut out the junk food until I started working undercover. I'd learned that if I wanted to keep my energy up and stay sharp, I had to fuel my body with healthy food.

Research on nutrition and discussions with experts taught me that certain foods and supplements had medicinal properties. Let's now review the foods that can help you recover from injuries and reduce pain. The spices and produce can be purchased at your local health food store or online. Choose organic instead of conventional when it's available and not too expensive. Organic food is healthier, tastes better, and is better for the environment.

Turmeric is being studied by researchers for its benefits in preventing and treating cancer, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and intestinal disorders. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, also has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties and has been used to disinfect minor wounds and reduce swelling. Find ground turmeric where spices are sold. Use it to season vegetables, rice, fish, poultry, or meat.

Ginger root relieves pain and reduces inflammation. After a workout, eat ginger to soothe sore muscles. Fresh ginger root adds a spicy flavor to carrots, apples, or orange juice. Ginger also can be used to flavor desserts and vegetarian or meat dishes.

Garlic has antibacterial properties and reduces inflammation. Research has shown that a diet rich in garlic helps to prevent cancer and cardiac disease. Since garlic relaxes blood vessels and increases circulation, it can help injuries to heal. A word of warning: don't eat garlic right before surgery, because it might prevent incisions from clotting properly.

Cinnamon helps to reduce muscle and joint pain and reduce menstrual cramps. Researchers are evaluating whether daily use of cinnamon can help prevent and treat diabetes. Cinnamon also has natural antibacterial properties and can be used to prevent urinary tract infections.

Cilantro reduces swelling in joints and relieves an upset stomach. The herb is rich in fiber and nutrients, which may help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. Researchers are studying cilantro's detoxifying and antibacterial properties. Women studied who regularly ate cilantro had fewer urinary tract infections. Fresh cilantro can be mixed with salad greens, is a traditional salsa ingredient, and can be used to season soups, rice, vegetables, and meat dishes.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, and blueberry skins contain the natural anti-inflammatory quercetin. Another antioxidant ingredient in blueberries, tannins, is useful in relieving upset stomach. Regular consumption of blueberries can help prevent urinary tract infections because another compound in blueberries inhibits bacteria from clinging to bladder tissue. Researchers are studying blueberries' potential to fight cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Pomegranate juice and seeds offer many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. An ounce of pomegranate juice contains three times as many antioxidants as an ounce of red wine. The antioxidants in pomegranate help reduce plaque in arteries, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers also think pomegranate can help prevent cancer. Drink unsweetened pomegranate juice, and try the seeds in salads, guacamole, and as a delicious addition to rice dishes and fruit compotes.

Green tea contains a multitude of antioxidants that reduce inflammation. In recent studies in the U.S. and overseas, researchers discovered that women who drank green tea every day significantly reduced their risk of developing ovarian cancer. Regular green tea consumption may ward off other types of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Scientists also are studying green tea's fat-burning and cholesterol-reducing properties.

Before making dietary modifications, talk to your doctor or other health professional. Some foods can interact with prescription medication. Try a small portion of each new food before you take a full serving. Wait at least 24 hours before you try another new food. A food diary will help you gauge the benefits of dietary changes. Some medications can cause unpleasant side-effects such as dizziness, rash, or vomiting. A new food shouldn't make you sick unless you have an allergy or sensitivity.

Don't expect overnight results from anti-inflammatory foods. If you want your body and mind to be fit, make a commitment to yourself to eat better.

About the Author
Author Alicia Hilton Web Headshot
Special Agent (Ret.)
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