Inflammation is the body’s immune response to an irritant, such as pollen or toxins.
When your body detects irritants, it releases white blood cells and antibodies to neutralize them and protect your body from infections.
This causes swelling, redness, and pain, as well as cytokines that attract more white blood cells to the affected area.
While inflammation doesn’t always cause pain, it can be incredibly uncomfortable and even painful in some cases.
To avoid inflammation, try avoiding the following 10 foods that cause inflammation.
What Is Inflammation
The word inflammation refers to a wide range of body responses.
At its most basic, inflammation is simply your immune system’s reaction to an injury or foreign object.
In its most acute form, it can mean pain and swelling from a cut or scrape.
But more generally, inflammation describes a process where white blood cells rush in to heal injured tissue.
Sometimes that tissue heals quickly other times, it gets damaged in ways that cause long-term problems.
Some potential symptoms of inflammation include:
- bad breath
- canker sores
- fatigue (tiredness)
- muscle aches (especially those affecting joints)
- nasal congestion/runny nose/postnasal drip
Of course, there are many triggers for these symptoms certain foods being one of them and they could be caused by any number of issues.
1) Fried Food
If you’re wondering why your joints hurt or you feel achy from head to toe, you might want to limit your consumption of fried foods.
While fried treats don’t cause direct inflammation, they tend to be highly processed and contain unhealthy fats and salt.
They can also spike blood sugar and make cravings worse, meaning you eat more of them in a short amount of time.
When it comes to healthful food choices, oil is not your friend.
2) Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame and saccharin are both artificial sweeteners that have been shown to increase inflammation.
Studies show that they both cause elevated blood sugar levels, which is believed to be a major factor in inflammation.
Additionally, diet soda has been linked to higher body mass index (BMI), which is a standard measurement of overweight and obesity.
Avoiding diet soda can reduce your intake of artificial sweeteners.
3) Alcoholic Drinks
Hard liquor contains tons of sulfites, a preservative that causes inflammation in many people.
All types of alcohol can also contribute to inflammation due to their dehydrating properties.
If you like alcoholic drinks, try drinking them in moderation and alternate with water or non-alcoholic alternatives.
Remember to avoid energy drinks that are filled with inflammatory ingredients.
4) Processed Grains
Processed grains, bread, cakes and pastries are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
A diet high in these fats is linked to inflammation throughout your body and can even trigger an autoimmune response that attacks your joints and organs.
Anti-inflammatory foods include seafood, coldwater fish like salmon and mackerel, eggs, green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and nuts like almonds.
It’s also wise to avoid vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats like soybean oil or corn oil as they contain pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.
5) Refined Sugars
Let’s face it, one of our biggest food weaknesses is sugar.
From gummy bears to Häagen-Dazs ice cream, it’s hard to keep those sweet cravings in check.
Yet most people don’t realize that refined sugars can cause inflammation and actually slow down your metabolism.
While an occasional candy bar probably won’t do much harm, too much sugar will wreak havoc on any weight loss efforts.
Luckily there are plenty of foods you can eat that satisfy your sweet tooth without all of the damaging side effects.
Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or just about any fruit for that matter, are great options when you need a little something extra at mealtime.
And always remember, less processed means more healthy!
6) Dairy Products
There are two major reasons why dairy products are inflammatory: lactose intolerance and casein.
Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products, most notably milk.
A deficiency of lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose in order to digest it, causes people to develop lactose intolerance (according to The University of Maryland Medical Center).
This inability can lead to diarrhea, bloating and cramping.
Casein is a protein found in dairy products.
When you consume dairy products, your body sees casein as a foreign invader and attacks it.
An excess amount of attack on any one area will produce inflammation (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
Since you don’t need to eat much dairy in order for these issues to the surface, just cutting back on how much you consume should help with inflammation reduction.
7) Legumes (including soybeans, peanuts, lentils, beans and peas)
Legumes contain high levels of phytates, natural chemicals that can block the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Plus, they’re often contaminated with molds and other environmental toxins.
Limit your intake to one serving per day at most, and opt for organic and non-GMO varieties whenever possible.
Soy is a common allergen people react to it differently, but it’s a good idea to limit or avoid it altogether while you are on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Take note of any food sensitivities you may have by removing soy from your diet completely for 30 days.
If you notice any positive changes in how you feel upon its reintroduction, such as more energy or less chronic pain (as well as clearer skin), you might be sensitive to soy protein.
8) High-Fat Meats
If you’re trying to lose weight, it might be wise to stop eating red meat.
High-fat meats can increase inflammation throughout your body, which may contribute to a number of health issues like cancer and heart disease.
If you do eat meat, go for lean cuts or choose white meat instead of red whenever possible.
And if your diet allows it, opt for organic meats without hormones.
You should also reduce the intake of processed meats (lunch meat, pepperoni, bacon) because they’re highly inflammatory.
Studies have found that people who avoid these foods are less likely to develop cancer than those who eat them regularly!
You can reduce inflammatory foods with these suggestions:
Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fatty acids that fight plaque buildup in your arteries and reduce other risk factors for atherosclerosis.
They also promote heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing bad cholesterol, decreasing inflammation, and preventing blood clots from forming.
Just make sure you eat them in moderation too much of a good thing can cause you to gain weight!
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been found to improve immunity against serious diseases like certain cancers and heart disease.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals.
Eating tomatoes regularly may lower your cancer risk due to their anti-inflammatory properties as well as their ability to reduce oxidative stress on cells and tissues throughout your body.
Turmeric contains curcumin, an inflammation-fighting compound that helps prevent insulin resistance, reduces bad cholesterol levels and triglycerides in the blood.
It’s also an effective analgesic (pain reliever) for headaches and other aches and pains.
Dark chocolate promotes healthy circulation because it’s full of flavonoids molecules known for improving blood flow in people with chronic illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.
It also improves your body’s ability to absorb nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow.
9) Corn Oil
Corn oil is used in many processed foods, from salad dressings to corn chips.
This fat is a vegetable oil made from corn germ.
It is high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3s, which can cause inflammation.
If you’re looking for an alternative to corn oil, consider avocado or olive oils that are less likely to irritate your body and cause inflammation.
To minimize unwanted side effects, don’t cook with corn oil. Use these healthier options instead.
Cook with Coconut oil or Ghee, both have a higher smoke point (the temperature at which fat begins to break down).
You could also substitute olive oil for Sautéing if you need something stable enough at high heat.
10) Refined Oils (such as vegetable oil, sunflower oil and palm oil.)
It’s important to choose natural sources of fat and limit your intake of unhealthy trans fats.
But avoiding all oil or consuming vegetable oils like canola, corn, safflower, soybean or sunflower is ill-advised.
Refined oils are stripped of their antioxidants and offer little in terms of nutritional value.
To avoid inflammation, focus on eating healthy fats that occur naturally in whole foods like avocado, nuts and fatty fish such as salmon.
There are literally thousands of ailments and diseases that can be caused by inflammation.
While you may not need to worry about these right now, it’s important to know what they are, and more importantly, how to deal with them if they should occur.
By eating a healthy diet full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger and other superfoods, you’ll have an added health boost on top of any pills your doctor has prescribed.