I’ve talked quite a few times in the past about inflammation and the damage it can do to our bodies; from diabetes, heart disease, cancer and aging, inflammation is the underlying factor in almost every disease. What you may not know is that apart from stress and other environmental factors, food has a lot to do with inflammation. Here’s a list of some common pro-inflammatory foods-
You already know that sugar is bad for your teeth and your waistline—but did you know that it fans the flames of inflammation as well? When you eat sugar, it triggers the release of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines that rev up the fire inside you.
2. Artificial sweeteners.
A diet high in these sweeteners can lead to inflammation that puts you at risk for glucose intolerance and metabolic disease—steps on the path to diabetes. Researchers believe that some of the bacteria in your gut react to artificial sweeteners by secreting chemicals that provoke an inflammatory response, making it harder for your body to handle sugar. What’s more, a new study reports that in addition to hiking your risk for diabetes, these sweeteners can increase your risk for obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
3. Glutenous grains.
I know that lots of people pooh-pooh the idea that gluten sensitivity is common. But I speak from experience. Eliminating gluten can help people get control over inflammatory diseases from arthritis to psoriasis to inflammatory bowel disease. It’s actually smart to reduce or eliminate all grains because of their pro-inflammatory effects, but at a minimum, give gluten the boot.
4. Seed oils.
Oils like canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean—as well as margarine and vegetable fats—are highly processed and contain an unhealthy ratio of inflammatory omega-6 to anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Instead, I recommend reaching for healthy substitutes like avocado and olive oil.
Most people don’t tolerate dairy foods well. Frequently, they don’t even know this is a problem until they eliminate dairy from their diet. When they do, symptoms like headaches, skin breakouts, bloating, and a stuffy nose clear up—and that tells me that their internal inflammation is dropping as well. If you’re not sure whether dairy bothers you, I recommend eliminating dairy foods, carefully reintroducing them, and then discontinuing them if you experience a bad reaction. There’s so many great non-dairy alternatives out there so I recommend just avoiding dairy all together if you can.
6. Foods packed in BPA-lined cans or packages.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is already linked to many scary problems ranging from birth defects to obesity. In addition, research now links BPA to increased inflammation in post-menopausal women. Luckily, more and more manufacturers are offering their products in BPA-free packaging; read labels carefully, and reach for BPA-free products whenever you can.
7. Commercial condiments (with exceptions).
Most grocery-store mayos, ketchups, and salad dressings are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, harmful emulsifiers, seed oils, and other junk. I make a lot of my own condiments but you can find some great additive and sugar free options at health food stores for ketchup, mustard, mayo and all that other good stuff.
8. Soy “Frankenfoods.”
I know you hear all the time that soy is good for you. However, the heavy processing of foods like soy burgers and soy hot dogs can lead to the formation of lysinoalanine and nitrosamines—toxins that can damage your cells, leading to inflammation.
If inflammation is a problem for you, try kicking these eight pro-inflammatory foods out of your diet and see what happens. It may take a few weeks (or even a few months), but I’m betting that you’ll feel healthier and look younger all over!