Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on March 1, 2023
Inflammation is a natural response of the body to protect itself against injury, infection, and disease. However, when the response is prolonged, it can lead to chronic inflammation and increase the risk of various health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
If you want to know how to reduce inflammation, it is essential to know the causes of inflammation and adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced diet and limited intake of inflammatory foods.
Here are five types of foods that cause inflammation:
1. Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Does sugar cause inflammation? The answer is yes! Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are commonly found in many processed foods and drinks and are known to cause inflammation in the body.
Consuming high levels of sugar and high fructose corn syrup can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, which triggers the release of insulin. This increased insulin secretion leads to inflammation, as the body tries to deal with the high levels of glucose.
Chronic inflammation caused by high sugar intake has been linked to several health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
High fructose corn syrup, which is commonly used as a sweetener in many processed foods, has been shown to increase inflammation in the body, specifically in the liver. This can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and other liver problems.
Eat this Instead: To reduce inflammation, limit sugar and high fructose corn syrup in the diet and choose healthier alternative sweeteners, such as honey or stevia.
2. Fried Foods
Another category of inflammatory foods is fried foods. Fried foods are a common source of unhealthy fats, which are known to cause inflammation in the body. When food is fried, it absorbs large amounts of unhealthy oils, such as trans fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These unhealthy fats are oxidized when heated to high temperatures, which generates harmful compounds that contribute to inflammation.
Fried foods are often high in salt and preservatives, which can also contribute to inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation caused by consuming fried foods can lead to various health problems. Additionally, the high levels of unhealthy fats in fried foods can cause oxidative stress, which further contributes to inflammation and increases the risk of chronic diseases.
Eat this Instead: To combat inflammation, you should limit the consumption of fried foods and choose healthier cooking methods, such as grilling, roasting, or baking.
3. Refined Carbohydrates
Next on our list of foods that cause inflammation is refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs, such as white bread, pasta, and sugar, are commonly found in many processed foods and are known to cause inflammation in the body.
When refined carbohydrates are consumed, they are quickly broken down into glucose, causing a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Again, this process triggers the release of insulin, which can cause inflammation in the body as it tries to deal with the high levels of glucose.
Refined carbohydrates are often stripped of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can lead to a nutrient deficiency and further contribute to inflammation. Chronic inflammation caused by consuming refined carbohydrates, as has been the case with the other inflammatory foods we’ve discussed, can lead to several health problems.
Eat this Instead: To lower inflammation, it is important to limit the consumption of refined carbohydrates and choose healthier options, such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, and alternative sweeteners.
4. Excessive Alcohol
Does alcohol cause inflammation? It sure does! Alcohol is next on our list of inflammatory foods to avoid. Alcohol is a common substance that is known to cause inflammation in the body. When alcohol is consumed, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and triggers an inflammatory response.
Chronic alcohol consumption can increase the levels of inflammation in the body, leading to various health problems. Alcohol also impairs the ability of the body to fight off infections and can cause oxidative stress, which further contributes to inflammation.
Alcohol has been shown to disrupt the gut microbiome, leading to an imbalanced gut and further contributing to inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation caused by alcohol consumption has been linked to several health problems, such as liver disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Eat this Instead: To reduce inflammation, limit alcohol consumption and choose non-alcoholic alternatives, such as water, juice, or tea.
5. Red and Processed Meats
Another food that causes inflammation is processed meat and red meat. Processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats, are commonly found in many diets and are known to cause inflammation in the body. Processed meats are high in salt and preservatives, which can contribute to inflammation in the body.
Additionally, processed meats often contain unhealthy fats, such as trans fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can increase oxidative stress and further contribute to inflammation.
Processed meats are often smoked, cured, or processed with nitrates, which have been shown to generate harmful compounds that contribute to inflammation. Excessively consuming processed meats has been linked to several health problems, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (are you noticing a trend?).
Eat this Instead: To lower inflammation, you should limit the consumption of processed meats and choose healthier alternatives, such as lean meats, fish, and plant-based proteins.
6. High-Fat Dairy Products
Does dairy cause inflammation? The high-fat varieties can! Dairy products, particularly those that are full-fat, can cause inflammation in the body through several mechanisms, including the presence of certain proteins, such as casein and whey, that can elicit an immune response in some people.
Dairy also contains high levels of saturated fat, which can contribute to inflammation by increasing oxidative stress and promoting the production of inflammatory molecules.
It’s not just the saturated fat that causes issues, either. Some people may be intolerant to lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, which can also lead to inflammation in the gut.
Eat this Instead: To decrease inflammation, avoid high-fat products like milk, cheeses, and yogurts, and replace them with low-fat options. You may also want to consider dairy alternatives such as plant-based proteins, nut butter, tofu, avocado, and non-dairy cheeses.
Other Foods That May Cause Inflammation
Here are several other foods that people frequently ask about that are not explicitly inflammatory, but may be in some individuals.
- Does Coffee Cause Inflammation? Truth About Caffeine Intake
- Do Tomatoes Cause Inflammation? Are They Bad for Arthritis?
- Does Gluten Cause Inflammation? Gluten’s Effects on the Body
- Are Eggs Inflammatory or Anti-inflammatory? Are They Bad for Arthritis?
How to Reduce Inflammation
What is the fastest way to get rid of inflammation in the body if you’re experiencing signs and symptoms? Here are three simple ways to reduce inflammation.
Switch to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet typically includes a variety of whole, minimally processed foods that reduce inflammation, such as:
- Fruits and vegetables: These are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Whole grains: These are high in fiber and other nutrients that can help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Healthy fats: These include sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish.
- Lean protein: Chicken, fish, and legumes are good sources of protein and fiber, which can help reduce inflammation.
- Herbs and spices: Herbs and spices that reduce inflammation can add flavor to foods without the added salt and sugar found in many processed foods.
Make Lifestyle Modifications
In addition to dietary modifications, several lifestyle changes can help decrease bodily inflammation. Here are some examples:
- Exercise regularly: Exercising regularly can help lower inflammation and improve health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Get enough sleep: Poor sleep quality or insufficient sleep can cause inflammation. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Manage stress: Chronic stress can lead to inflammation in the body. Practice stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing to help reduce stress.
- Avoid smoking: Smoking is an established cause of inflammation in the body. Quitting smoking can help reduce inflammation and enhance overall health.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess body weight, especially around the midsection, is associated with increased inflammation. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular physical activity and a balanced diet can help reduce inflammation.
Add Dietary Supplements To the Mix
If you’ve got the diet and lifestyle changes in order, and you’re looking for other ways to lower inflammation, consider the following natural anti-inflammatories. These products also work well as natural painkillers.
Turmeric is a spice that is commonly used in traditional Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, and it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, inhibits the production of inflammatory compounds in the body and reduces inflammation. Turmeric also improves antioxidant levels, which can help the body combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation.
- Learn More: 10 Best Turmeric Curcumin Supplements for 2023
Apple cider vinegar is a popular ingredient in many health and wellness products, and it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps suppress the production of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. Additionally, apple cider vinegar can improve gut health and support the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which can help to reduce systemic inflammation in the body.
- Learn More: 10 Best Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies for 2023
Elderberry is a fruit commonly used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of health conditions, including inflammation. The high levels of antioxidants in elderberry help reduce oxidative stress and lower levels of inflammation in the body. Additionally, elderberry has been shown to have immune-boosting properties, which can help the body to combat infections and reduce inflammation caused by illness.
- Learn More: 10 Best Sambucus Elderberry Gummies for 2023
Inflammatory Foods: Final Thoughts
Inflammation is a crucial aspect of our body’s defense mechanism, but chronic inflammation can lead to various health problems. By avoiding foods that cause inflammation and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, we can reduce inflammation and improve our health.
A balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, combined with regular physical activity, stress management, and adequate sleep, is essential for maintaining a healthy inflammatory response.