An anti-inflammatory diet may be a hot topic on the internet, especially for those who have arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. However, we should keep in mind that inflammation is not a totally bad thing at all. It can be good or bad, depending on what it does to your body.
It is beneficial when inflammation works as a protection against foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. And when you are injured or sick, the inflammatory process helps your body stimulate healing and defend itself against illness.
On the other hand, if inflammation becomes uncontrolled, and longer than it should be, it can be troublesome.
Interestingly, just as there are anti-inflammatory foods, there are also foods that can significantly promote inflammation in your body. Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid certain foods that may cause inflammation?
Foods and Food Ingredients That May Cause Inflammation
Here are seven foods that may cause inflammation. So try to avoid or at least limit your intake as much as possible:
Yes, sugar. And yes, it is hard to resist sweets. But before you break that chocolate bar, slice a piece of cake, dunk your favorite cookie in a warm chocolate drink, think about the processed sugar added in them. Refined sugar, and other processed sugar assists in triggering the cascading effect of inflammatory messengers in our body called cytokines. If you are not sure if the food or drinks you eat or gulp in has sugar in it, check out the ingredient section and look for words with “ose” ending such as sucrose or fructose. And it is up to you to avoid it or not or keep them as a once-in-a-while reward to self after a workweek.
Meat can be a good source of protein, but if it also contains preservatives, it can be potentially harmful. Processed meat has high amounts of preservatives like sodium and other mystery, weird-sounding names like Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Heterocyclic Amines, Nitrites, and a bunch more.
But don’t get us wrong, we are not saying that eating meat is bad. What promotes inflammation are the food preservatives in them. So, if you want to get protein from meat, choose to prepare them by cooking from scratch like roasting them at home or baking them instead.
Fried foods - Cooking oil
Fried foods or those cooked with refined vegetable oils such as soy, safflower, and corn contain high concentrations of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are different from the Omega-3 fatty acids in terms of the number of the last double bonds of carbon in their molecule. But chemistry speaking aside, they have the same function in cell growth and brain function. However, we should keep in mind that moderation is the key when it comes to eating because consuming too much can pose health risks.
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory fatty acids, and Omega-6s are the opposite, as they are pro-inflammatory. Consuming too much omega-6s may pose certain health risks like uncontrolled inflammation.
Research says that saturated fats found in dairy products (like cream, butter, ghee, cheese, and regular-fat milk) and meat (fatty cuts), and lard may trigger fat tissue called adipose inflammation. This inflammation doesn’t only cause certain heart diseases but also arthritis inflammation. While our bodies need a certain amount of unsaturated and saturated fats, it is better to keep monitoring our intake.
Want to know where we get high amounts of such fatty foods, the National Cancer Institute mentioned that in the average American diet, cheese and pizzas are the most significant sources of saturated fats.
Surprised? Yes, cereals are on the list. Like processed meat, cereals contain preservatives like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). These preservatives keep cereals from changing color and becoming rancid. And while these preservatives are useful for maintaining the cereals’ flavor, BHA and BHT have negative effects. BHA has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible human carcinogen and that BHT the primary female sex hormone estrogen and hinders the expression of male sex hormones, which may result in adverse reproductive effects.
Foods with additives
Foods with additives are in every grocery store and restaurant nowadays. Ever wondered why? Well, they have longer shelf-life. But these foods and snacks like potato chips, packaged and processed foods like chewing gum, canned goods, to name a few, can activate our immune system’s inflammatory response.
Small amounts of alcohol may work as an anti-inflammatory, especially the antioxidant-rich red wine. But, if consumed in large amounts, alcohol may have the opposite inflammatory effect. Research suggests that overconsumption of alcohol causes inflammation, gut-brain-liver damage, and may contribute to disease development.
About the Authors:
Mike Zhang is the founder of the MZF Group. He graduated from the University of Toronto on the dean's list with a Masters Degree in science. Mike was a two time National Muay Thai Champion, and a strength and conditioning coach to several learned athletes. He has over 14 years of experience as a Muay Thai Coach.
Marijune Tiamzon, RN, MHPNP
With nearly 5 years of experience in the medical field, Marijune holds a registered nurse license and a certificate as a mental health nurse practitioner. She is an adventurous young professional, and her hobbies include diving, windsurfing, and saber fencing.
As an avid writer, she is most passionate about sharing acquired knowledge in the medical field and how to apply it to improve the quality of life of our readers.