Anti-inflammatory Diets for Dancers

Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on anti-inflammatory nutrition. He has worked for several years on the relationship between diets and inflammation. He is the author of the Zone Diet book series, and president of the non-profit, Inflammation Research Foundation.
I was excited when I got a chance to ask Dr. Barry a few questions about anti-inflammatory diet for dancers. Here are his replies.
Q. You mentioned that due to the inflammatory nature of a dancer’s world, they need to partake of an anti-inflammatory diet. Can you give some examples of foods that are particularly beneficial?
A. An anti-inflammatory diet is adequate in low-fat protein (chicken, fish, dairy or soy imitation meat products) balanced by low-glycemic carbs (primarily non-starchy vegetables) with a dash of monounsaturated fat like olive oil.
Q. Secondary to that, could you also highlight a few foods that are particularly inflammatory and should be avoided? 
A. Inflammatory foods are vegetable oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids (especially when combined with high-glycemic carbs like grains or starches) and saturated fats (especially palmitic acid, the most abundant saturated fatty acids).
Q. You mentioned the importance of fish oils. Could you offer a little insight as to their benefits? Also, are there certain things a dancer should look out for when choosing a fish oil supplement (it seems there are so many options in terms of fish oils)?
A. First is the amount. An elite dancer would require at least 5 grams of EPA and DHA per day to reduce exercise-induced inflammation. The second is the purity to ensure that levels of toxins like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are very low. The EPA and DHA are the substrates to make powerful hormones (i.e. resolvins) that turn off the inflammation, but they can only be made if there are such EPA and DHA in the blood.
“Like any athlete, dancers live in a world of inflammation by choice. Therefore, they need to follow an anti-inflammatory diet (but containing adequate protein and rich in nutrients including fermentable fiber) to reduce the intensity of inflammation caused by exercise as well as take pro-resolution supplements (primarily high-dose fish oil) to resolve the inflammation.”
Q. Could you explain a bit about polyphenol extracts and how they contribute to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle?
A. Polyphenol extracts, if they get into the blood, can activate gene transcription factors (such as Nf2 and AMP kinase) that reduce inflammation and repair damaged tissue caused by intense exercise.
Q. Finally, could you briefly explain some of the risks (short- and/or long-term) to dancers who do not properly manage the inflammation that is secondary to the rigors of dance?
A. Unresolved inflammation (either diet-induced or exercise-induced) will eventually cause scar tissue formation in every organ in the body as well as reduce metabolism that inhibits performance (both mental and physical).
Key Takeaways
1. The best anti-inflammatory diet is a balanced one (a combination of low-fat protein, low-GI carbs, and monounsaturated fat).
2. Polyphenol extracts are effective in combating inflammation.
3. When it comes to controlling inflammation with fish oils, quantity and quality matter a lot.
4. Selecting the right food is only half of the battle, avoiding inflammatory foods is also important.
5. Dancers need to actively fight inflammation because unresolved inflammation can pose serious health and performance risk in the long run.
Whether you are a professional dancer or dance teacher, it is important that you eat the right food. Dancing can take a toll on your body. It can make your body vulnerable to inflammation and injuries while slowing down recovery. You can keep inflammation at bay by following the diets recommended by experts.
For more information on Dr. Sears, visit his website at



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