Top 5 Foods that Contribute to Inflammation
Are we adding fuel to our inflammation fires with our daily lifestyle? The answer is, probably yes… in the form of certain foods. Ayurveda, a traditional medicinal system that has been practiced for over five thousand years, has a common saying that springs to mind when it comes to our body and inflammation.
There are three opportunities for you to heal or poison yourself each day. We call them breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Below you will find the 5 most common foods that are most likely contributing to your inflammation.
1. Added Sugars
The average American consumes around 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day. We should be averaging around six teaspoons or less.
It has become increasingly difficult to avoid added sugars because food manufacturers add large doses to improve the flavor of many packaged foods. Research has shown that consuming too much added sugar can lead to chronic inflammation. Some of the “cereal” offenders are:
- Obvious ones like cookies, candy and a lot of breakfast cereals
- Some less obvious ones; breads, crackers, granola bars, salad dressing
How to cut down on added sugars
To lower your intake of added sugars, Coates recommends paying close attention to food labels:
If you see sugar or some form of syrup listed among the first three ingredients, that’s a telltale sign you’re headed for a sugar overload.
Look for foods that have less than 4 grams of added sugars per serving. Most labels include a line for added sugars.
And remember, there is a difference between added sugars and natural sugars, says Coates.
Natural sugars are already present in foods like fruit and plain dairy products, while added sugars are extra and enhance the flavor of food.
Added sugars can cause those spikes in blood sugar. Natural sugars found in fruit and dairy do not typically spike your blood sugar as quickly because they also contain fiber and lean protein to help slow digestion.
2. Trans fats
Food manufacturers create trans fats through the process of hydrogenation. “Adding hydrogen to fat changes its texture, consistency and shelf life,” says Coates.
Researchers have found there is no safe level of trans fats to consume. It’s recommended to aim for less than one gram of trans fat each day.
How to limit trans fats
Food manufacturers know that trans fats are the latest bad guys on the block, so they’ve gotten creative with labeling. While many food labels clearly state ‘no trans-fat’ or ‘trans-fat-free,’ a product is still allowed to hide a half gram or less per serving to their products. This is where it gets tricky because if you eat more than one serving, you have easily exceeded the one gram of trans fat or less per day limit.
One way to find out if an item is truly free of trans fat is to look at the ingredients. If you see hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list, then the food contains trans-fat.
3. Red and processed meats
Processed meats have been salted, cured, fermented or smoked for flavor or preservation purposes.
Research has shown both processed and red meats are high in saturated fat, which can contribute to inflammation.
Red meat is any meat that comes from cows, pigs, sheep and goats.
Common Examples of processed meats include:
- Hot dogs.
- Meat jerkies.
- Some deli meats.
How to cut down on red or processed meats
- Go meatless once or twice a week.
- Limit meals that feature meat to once per day.
- Treat meat like a side dish rather than the main course — instead, make vegetables, fruits and fiber-filled carbohydrates the main events.
- Choose meats that have less than four grams of saturated fat per serving (Most processed meats contain at least five grams or more per serving!)
Omega-6 fatty acids are fats that your body uses for energy. Since your body can’t make them, you get them from the foods you eat.
Examples of foods rich in omega-6s include:
- Canola oil.
- Corn oil.
- Safflower oil.
- Sunflower oil.
- Peanut oil.
Why omega-6s may contribute to inflammation
“We need these fatty acids for normal growth and development. They also contribute to the good kind of inflammation in the body that helps heal you,” Coates says.
Research has shown you need a healthy balance of omega-6s in your body. Consuming omega-3s (fats you get from foods such as salmon, walnuts and flaxseed) helps you achieve this balance.
But if you don’t have enough omega-3s and too many omega-6s, you create a pro-inflammatory response which may contribute to an unbalanced inflammation response.
To restore your fatty-acid balance, Coates recommends:
- Eat more foods rich in omega-3s.
- Eat fewer foods rich in omega-6s.
- Use olive oil for lower-heat cooking (it is lower in Omega-6s)
- Use cooking spray to grease pans when cooking.
5. Refined carbs
Coates says refined carbohydrates are stripped of their nutrition and lack fiber. “These processed carbs are becoming a mainstay in a lot of people’s diets.” Refined carbs are primarily white flour products including:
- Breads and rolls.
- French fries.
- Sugary cereals.
- White rice.
How to limit refined carbs
Instead of avoiding carbs altogether, replace refined carbs with 100% whole-grain alternatives like quinoa, oatmeal and brown rice.
“These take longer to digest so they won’t spike your blood sugar as quickly,” says Coates. “They help you create a steady balance in your body after you eat, which means less inflammation.” And be sure to fill your plate with high-fiber foods, including vegetables and fruits. “They have lots of nutrition, vitamins and minerals.”