While there is no hard and fast evidence to prove that diet alone will improve your flexibility, we take a look at some of the foods that may help to lubricate our joints, strengthen our bones and reduce inflammation.
Whilst a quick google search will throw up hundreds of results of the ‘5 foods for flexibility’ variety, it might surprise you to know that there is no scientific evidence proving that eating specific foods will increase your range of flexibility. However, certain foods have been shown to help fight inflammation, strengthen bones, lubricate joints and support the immune system - all of which are the foundation to a strong, healthy, flexible body.
Here are the top 3 double acts:
1. Omega 3 and spices - fight inflammation
Studies have shown that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function, and, at higher doses, may ease inflammation of the joints.
Omega-3 is found in certain types of oily fish including salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring. The main source of Omega-3 is from marine fish oils but as wild salmon and trout stocks are declining, try and choose fish from sustainable sources where possible.
If you don’t eat fish, soy / edamame beans (and other soya products such as tofu or milk), walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds plus green, leafy vegetables such as seaweed, kale, chard and watercress are also a great source of Omega-3.
Some spices - cinnamon, ginger and turmeric and chilli peppers - have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Try sprinkling cinnamon on your porridge and coffee or making this lovely, warming turmeric and ginger tea.
2. Calcium and Vitamin D - protect bone health
You’re probably aware that calcium is essential for strong bones - assisting in the prevention of bone loss and maintenance of strong and healthy joints - but you may not know that Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium.
Another little-known fact about calcium is that it's part of the chain reaction that enables your muscles to contract, so calcium levels, amongst many other things, have a huge influence upon the health of your muscles.
Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese and yoghurt, green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and okra (but not spinach - as this contains oxalic acid, which reduces calcium absorption). If you eat a vegan diet good sources of calcium are found in fortified soya, rice and oat drinks, pulses, dried fruit such as raisins, figs, calcium-set tofu, sesame seeds and tahini.
Even in the Netherlands - not known for its tropical climate (!), we meet at least some of our Vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight, but it’s a good idea to try and supplement your diet with Vitamin D to ensure your calcium intake is properly absorbed. Few foods in nature contain Vitamin D but again, oily fish are amongst the best sources. Small amounts are found in cheese and egg yolks and some sun-grown mushrooms but most of the Vitamin D we absorb comes from fortified foods such as fortified fat spreads, breakfast cereals and soya drinks with Vitamin D added.
3. Collagen and Silicon - maintain healthy connective tissues
The connective tissues include several types of fibrous tissues as well as the more specialised kinds which include bone, ligaments, cartilage and tendons.
Tendons and ligaments are largely made up of collagen - the most abundant protein in the body and the ‘glue’ that holds structure of the body together. It’s found in the bones, muscles, skin and tendons so eating foods that contain collagen is one way to support their health. The best sources of collagen are from foods such as bone broth stocks that make up soup and stews. They contain high levels of the amino acids that promote connective tissue repair but the gelatine is also very anti-inflammatory.
A diet high in plant protein (soy protein, hummus, nuts, nut butters, foods made with almond flour, etc) has also been demonstrated to have a positive effect on collagen. Foods rich in vitamin C also aid tissue repair as they help support the production of collagen.
Evidence has strongly suggested that dietary silicon is similarly beneficial to bone and connective tissue health, playing a vital role in assisting calcium with the growth and maintenance of joints and bones. It induces flexibility in the bones by increasing the amount of collagen which we’ve discovered, plays a vital role in supporting the cells, tissues and organs.
Silicon is much higher in plant-derived foods so good sources include grains such as barley, oats, rice bran and wheat bran, along with some vegetables such as green beans and root vegetables.
Nourishing herbal tea to aid flexibility
Try this infusion* from one of our lovely members, Noreen McCarthy - a qualified herbalist, physical therapist and yoga teacher - which includes a combination of herbs said to support the health of the muscles, bones and connective tissues.
The herbs should be available in most good health food shops but if not, buying individual teabags and boiling them together works just as well.
- 20g Horsetail, Equisetum arvense
- 20g Nettle leaf, Urtica dioica
- 20g Marshmallow leaf, Althea officinalis
Cover in 1 pint/600ml boiling water, strain after 15 minutes and drink throughout day.
are rich in calcium, iron, protein and antioxidants, they are very nourishing and strengthening. Nettle is super used as a food too, add to soups and curries.
is rich in soluble silica which is readily absorbed. It supports the regeneration of bones, cartilage and other connective tissue. Horsetail is also said to increase strength and elasticity.
contains an abundance of mucilage which soothes inflamed tissues. It promotes and accelerates the healing of our tissues. Marshmallow may help us to recover more quickly from an active yoga session.
*Please consult a herbalist or a doctor if you are taking medication or are pregnant.
Balance is key
As with everything, balance is key. Unfortunately there are no ‘magic’ foods that will help you glide easily into hanumanasana or enable you to sit for hours in full lotus pose. Consuming a well-balanced, healthy diet full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, pulses, nuts and heart-healthy fats is really the best way to keep your body healthy, happy, strong and flexible.
‘True’ flexibility is more about easeful range of movement and feeling comfortable and fluid in your own body rather pushing yourself to the maximum or trying to emulate that impossible-to-reach yoga pose. So explore your flexibility, and your attitude towards it, mindfully and with curiosity.
Practise in class:
Relieve stress with our Deep Release program
Deep Release - release tension within the mind and the muscles and fascia/connective tissues of the body including the psoas muscle - with Hatha, Yin and Yoga Nidra classes.