for Yoga: Foods to Support Joints, Speed Recovery
by Jennifer Grossman
Yogas power to transform the body and ones life
is what draws many to the practice. Any process of rebuilding requires
raw materials, and in the case of the body, that means the proper foods.
Just as you wouldnt build an ashram out of random trash, attention
to nutrient function not just taste or whim should inform
your approach to rebuilding the temple of your body. Thats because
the kinds of food you choose can greatly affect energy levels and recovery
time, as well as the health of the muscles, joints and bones you are reconditioning.
Based on research and many years of my own yoga practice, here is a list
of top food sources of those compounds that can help speed healing, ease
soreness, promote joint health and otherwise support your body as it reaps
the benefits of yoga.
Support Healthy Joints:
Broccoli: Cruciferous veggies contain sulphoraphane, a compound which
triggers your body's own antioxidant defenses. New research suggests this
process may block the COX-2 enzymes that trigger inflammation. Broccoli
sprouts are one of the most potent sources of these indirect antioxidants,
which youll also find in cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Cherries: A top source of anthocyanins that may reduce inflammation and
possibly lower blood levels of uric acid (which can accumulate in joints,
causing the pain associated with gout).
Pineapple: The only natural source of bromelain a proteolytic enzyme
that acts as a clean-up crew, digesting dead protein cells
in case of injury or run-of-the-mill micro-tears that are part of the
muscle-building process. Research suggests the bromelain in pineapple
can also help reduce inflammation and relieve muscle soreness. Fresh or
frozen pineapple has as much, if not more, bromelain activity than supplements.
Pineapples also provide an excellent source of vitamin C (helps promote
collagen formation and improve iron absorption) and manganese (supports
metabolism and bone density).
Spring Back From Sprains:
Red Bell Pepper: Just one contains over 470% of your daily vitamin C needs
(yellow contains 450% and green 190%). Vitamin C can help speed recovery
from minor sprains by spurring collagen synthesis. According to a Boston
University study, people getting under 150 mg daily of vitamin C had faster
cartilage breakdown. Other top sources of C: citrus fruit, pineapple,
kiwi, cantaloupe, papaya, strawberries, tomato, kale, collard greens and
Black Cod: Move over salmon! Black cod has even higher levels of omega-3
fatty acids, which may help reduce inflammation. Flounder, halibut and
sardines also contain this healthy fat, as do flaxseed oil, walnuts, tofu
and leafy green vegetables.
Build a Better Backbone:
Kale: Theres more to strengthening your spine than cobra
and camel. Kale is one of the healthier sources of calcium,
which helps hold the line against bone loss. A serving of kale (1 cup
cooked) also provides nearly 1,000% of adequate intake for vitamin K
which enhances mineral binding capacity of bone proteins.
Button Mushrooms: An unexpected source of vitamin D, adequate levels of
which help support joint health. The mechanism may be greater absorption
of calcium. Sunshine enables your body to produce vitamin D, while other
top sources include oysters, sardines and fortified non-fat dairy.
Minimizing Muscle Pain:
Bananas: You know the complex carbohydrates in bananas are a healthy source
of lasting energy, but what if that energy inspires you to overdo it?
Potassium can also help you avoid muscle cramps, as its one of the
electrolytes that allows muscles to contract and relax (calcium, magnesium
and phosphorus are the others). Potatoes, broccoli and kiwi are other
healthy potassium sources.
White Beans: In addition to supplying nearly half of your potassium needs
for the day, white beans are a healthy vegetable source of protein, important
in rebuilding muscle as well as supporting the collagen synthesis involved
Oats: Contain zinc (supports cell repair), manganese (for collagen formation),
copper (required for cross-linking collagen) and protein (to relieve soreness).
Tea: Green and black tea contain flavonoids - antioxidant compounds that
may block the production of prostaglandins, which cause inflammation and
Theres only one thing that rivals the importance of choosing the
right foods for providing a proper foundation for your practice
and thats avoiding the wrong foods. Yes, I know, weve all
heard the cliché before: All foods can fit into a healthful
eating style. I beg to disagree.
It matters what you pour down your gullet. If it didnt, there wouldnt
be any need for warning labels on bottles of Drano©. If you accept
the premise that ingesting synthetically derived chemicals meant to unclog
drains can kill you immediately, why balk at the notion that ingesting
synthetically derived chemicals that clog your arteries can kill you eventually?
While Im all for the yogic values of non-judgment and moderation,
heres a little dietary tough love that will have your body loving
you back. Pass up the pork rinds. Limit the red meat. Diets high in animal
fats are linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and as much
as a 33% greater risk of breast cancer. Plus, all that artery clogging
saturated fat wont help your circulation when demanding postures
require optimum blood flow.
The same goes for high sodium dinners and trans fat filled treats. By
increasing blood pressure and decreasing HDL (good cholesterol) they both
undermine two of the gifts of regular exercise like yoga (lower blood
pressure and higher HDL).
Finally, remember that a healthy human body is over 70% water, so limit
caffeinated drinks that can increase dehydration, while always keeping
that water bottle near by.
So, rebuild your body and reach your full potential by eating the right
balance of healthy yoga-foods. With proper diet and diligent practice,
your muscles, joints, bones and taste buds will soon be
Jennifer Grossman is the Vice President Director at the Dole
Nutrition Institute. A strong advocate of incorporating more fruits and
vegetables into the American diet, Jennifer has been a frequent television
commentator and her opinion editorials have appeared in thousands of publications
around the country including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal
and the Los Angeles Times.