We all know that eating healthfully is important. However, one thing that few people talk about is the risks associated with foods that cause inflammation. While this is well-known to people suffering from arthritis (inflammation of the joints), inflammation has also been linked to many other diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
Food is medicine and fuel for the body. And just as using poor quality fuel can negatively impact your vehicle, your body is no different. So it’s important to be aware of which foods cause inflammation – some may seem obvious, while others you may find surprising. Here’s what to avoid:
It may be hard to avoid, but sugar is one of the leading causes of inflammation. Sugar causes the release of inflammatory proteins known as cytokines. While these proteins are important in fighting against inflammation, there are both pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines, and sugar releases the pro-inflammation variety.
2. Saturated Fats
Studies show that saturated fats trigger inflammation of fat tissue. This has a negative effect on arthritis and is also an indicator for heart disease. Saturated fats are most often found in cheese, red meat, fast food, and high fat dairy products.
3. Processed / Refined Carbohydrates
White flour such as bread is the main culprit here, with fried foods, and white rice included as well. These foods contribute to the production of advanced glycation end products which triggers inflammation in the body. There is also evidence to suggest that refined carbohydrates may be worse than fats in contributing to obesity.
4. Additives & Artificial Sweeteners
Your body cannot process artificial ingredients well, so substances such as aspartame and mono-sodium glutamate may trigger an immune response. Aspartame is a neurotoxin that the body frequently “attacks” therefore causing inflammation. Artificial ingredients are often hidden in processed food, condiments, and spice mixes. Aspartame in particular is commonly found in soft drinks, especially “diet” or “healthier” beverages.
Another familiar additive is MSG (which you may be used to associating with Chinese food). But you may be surprised to know that this well-known flavor enhancer is also commonly found in a large number of canned and prepared foods, fast food, and deli meats. In addition to contributing to chronic inflammation, MSG has been shown to negatively impact the liver.
One of the most common sensitivities and allergic reactions that people have is to the gluten protein in grains and processed foods, which can cause inflammation of the intestinal tract. Symptoms and reactions may vary between individuals, but a new study links the protein found in wheat (amylase-trypsin inhibitors or ATIs) to inflammation even beyond the gut. The evidence suggests that ATIs can cause inflammation in the “lymph nodes, kidneys, spleen and brain” and can “worsen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Symptoms such as chronic fatigue, muscle or joint pain, rashes, weight gain, digestive issues, and high blood pressure may be signs of inflammation. So be aware of your body’s responses to certain foods and when in doubt, consult your physician to determine the best recourse for controlling the symptoms you are experiencing.
Controversy does surround some foods, such as diary, which many people suggest avoiding due to the sensitivity and allergic reactions people can have to the lactose or casein in dairy products. However, studies actually show that there isn’t enough evidence to draw conclusive determinations as to the detriment versus benefit of dairy on inflammation bio‑markers. In general, experts agree that a well-balanced diet focusing on plant-based nutrition is always a good choice for reducing inflammation and living a healthy life.