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A Season of Comfort Food: Promoting Optimal Health and Healing Throughout the Holidays

By Rachel Krupski, Student Physical Therapist

With the holidays and “sweater weather” right around the corner, healthy eating often goes by the wayside as comfort foods begin to fill our plates. However, we sometimes forget about the effect that our diet has on our overall health. Many foods have the potential to promote healing, reduce pain, and reduce  throughout the body. While its tempting to throw healthy eating out the window as swimsuit season quickly fades away, continuing to include healthy foods in our diets help our bodies function at full capacity through the holiday season. Whether you’re dealing with an injury or just general aches and pains, minor changes to your diet this holiday season can help promote healing, keep you energized, reduce aches and pains, improve sleep quality, reduce stress, improve your workouts, and even improve your memory. Take a look at the super foods below to start your journey towards healthy eating this holiday season, as well as try some bonus healthy recipes!

Tart Cherriescherries

Tart cherries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents such as anthocyanins that can have an effect on processes of muscle healing, as well as play a role in alleviation of pain.9 A study examining the effects of cherry consumption on muscle damage following exercise found that consumption of tart cherry juice before and after a workout had a positive effect on pain reduction and strength.1  Additional positive effects of tart cherries have been found for symptom management of osteoarthritis and even for improving sleep quality!2, 3 When looking for tart cherries to include in your diet, be mindful of choosing a tart cherry, such as the Montmorency cherry, rather than a sweet cherry, such as a Bing cherry, to avoid excess sugar consumption.

Warm Salmon, Cherry, Arugula Salad:

Sweet Potatoes

Not only are sweet potatoes the perfect flavorful addition to your holiday meal, they are packed with nutritional value containing vitamins, iron, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and antioxidants.4 The complex carbohydrates cause a healthy rise in blood sugar levels that will give you a boost of energy. 4 The vitamin A, B1, B5, and B6 in sweet potatoes can help reduce oxidative stress, maintain mucus membranes and skin integrity, and promote visual acuity. 4

Sweet Potato-Peanut Bisque:


gingerGinger also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics that can help reduce inflammation and pain. Research shows symptom benefit for those with osteoarthritis who include ginger in their diets.5 A recent study completed evaluating the benefits of ginger found that black ginger improved fitness performance by increasing energy metabolism and fighting inflammation. 6 Ginger may be a great addition to your diet to improve muscular endurance and combat muscle fatigue and pain. 6

Hawaiian Ginger Chicken Stew:


Salmon contains omega 3 fatty acids which can help improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and heart rate. 7 Omega 3 fatty acids in salmon also help improve blood sugar levels by regulating insulin, as well as supporting improved brain function and memory.7 Salmon, like ginger and tart cherries, has anti-inflammatory properties that can improve pain and muscle soreness.

Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon:


blackberriesBlackberries are another great source of anthocyanins, which are an anti-inflammatory and can have an impact on reduce pain and soreness throughout the body, as well as promote healing. Blackberries are a great source of antioxidants that can reduce the oxidative load throughout the body that promote accelerated aging and development of degenerative disease.8 Additionally, blackberries are shown to have positive health benefits on bone mineral density and body weight management.8

Healthy Blackberry Banana Bread:

Enjoy one of these superfoods today, rewarding both your tastebuds and your body!

  1. Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, Sayers SP. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br. J. Sports Med. 2006;40:679-683; discussion 683
  2. Schumacher HR, Pullman-Mooar S, Gupta SR, Dinnella JE, Kim R, McHugh MP. Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (oa) of the knee. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013;21:1035-1041
  3. Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur. J. Nutr. 2012;51:909-916
  4. Mohanraj R, Sivasankar S. Sweet potato (ipomoea batatas [l.] lam)–a valuable medicinal food: A review. J. Med. Food. 2014;17:733-741
  5. Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Naderi Z, Dehghan A, Nadjarzadeh A, Fallah Huseini H. Effect of ginger supplementation on proinflammatory cytokines in older patients with osteoarthritis: Outcomes of a randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of nutrition in gerontology and geriatrics. 2016;35:209-218
  6. Toda K, Hitoe S, Takeda S, Shimoda H. Black ginger extract increases physical fitness performance and muscular endurance by improving inflammation and energy metabolism. Heliyon. 2016;2:Article e00115
  7. Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Eating fish: Health benefits and risks. JAMA. 2006;296:1926-1926
  8. Kaume L, Howard LR, Devareddy L. The blackberry fruit: A review on its composition and chemistry, metabolism and bioavailability, and health benefits. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2012;60:5716-5727