From asthma to heart disease, inflammation fuels countless diseases. It also increases as we age, explaining why growing old brings on so many ailments. But this doesn’t mean inflammation cannot be prevented! By avoiding certain foods, you can control inflammation.
Sometimes, the benefits will crop up soon after eliminating pro-inflammatory foods. Some of the ailments that can be avoided in this way include inflammatory bowel disease and food sensitivities.1 2 In other cases, fighting inflammation helps you over time, as in the development of cancer.
So, do yourself a favor and ditch these pro-inflammatory foods before you even begin to get unwanted symptoms. You’ll be so glad you did.
1. Added Sugar
There are zero perks to added sugar. It leads to weight gain, tooth decay, and – you guessed it – inflammation. When you eat sugar, proteins called cytokines act up. Pro-inflammatory cytokines increase, while anti-inflammatory cytokines decrease. Consequently, inflammation thrives.3
The average American already eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which is 22 teaspoons too much! And most of this comes from sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and bottled juices. Processed snacks, pastries, and cereals are also high in added sugar.4
2. Artificial Sweeteners
OK, so you’ve cut out added sugars. Should artificial sweeteners take their place? According to a 2014 study in the journal Nature, they’re not any better.
Glucose intolerance can increase after just 1 week of eating artificial sweeteners. The gut responds by releasing chemicals that spark inflammation, just like it does after sugar overdose.5 Artificial sweeteners are also linked to weight gain, which puts your body in a constant state of inflammation.6
3. Refined Starches
When a starch is refined, all the “good stuff” is removed. Fiber, a nutrient that increases satiety and reduces cholesterol, is the first to go. What’s left is a food that encourages inflammation. These refined starches are, in fact, on the list of foods that increase pro-inflammatory cytokines.7 Examples include white bread, white pasta, white rice, and processed cereals.
4. Store-Bought Condiments
Most condiments have sugar and artificial sweeteners, making them two-time offenders. Often, they’re also packed with artificial dyes, sodium, and preservatives.8 And with this, inflammation will flourish.
Look for sauces and dressings with low sodium or no added salt and sugar. When possible, make your own. Also, don’t forget the power of spices and herbs.
5. Red Meat
Red meat might be rich in protein, but its proinflammatory effect isn’t worth it. A high intake increases C-reactive protein, an inflammatory biomarker. Glucose metabolism also takes a hit.
No wonder red meat consumption is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, three inflammatory diseases.9 10 It’s a solid reason to trade red meat for lean protein like skinless poultry, fish, or beans.
Foods That Prevent Inflammation
Now that you know what to avoid, reach for these anti-inflammatory foods. You’ll get protection from both inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, and wheat pasta
- Omega-3 fatty acids through fatty fish, avocado, and olive oil
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, these foods “cool” inflammation. On the other hand, the typical Western diet of refined starches, sugar, and saturated fat make it worse.11 It really proves the power of food.
|↑1||What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Jenny, Nancy S. “Inflammation in aging: cause, effect, or both?.” Discovery medicine 13, no. 73 (2012): 451-460.|
|↑3, ↑7, ↑11||Giugliano, Dario, Antonio Ceriello, and Katherine Esposito. “The effects of diet on inflammation.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 48, no. 4 (2006): 677-685.|
|↑4||Added Sugar in the Diet. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑5||Suez, Jotham, Tal Korem, David Zeevi, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, Christoph A. Thaiss, Ori Maza, David Israeli et al. “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.” Nature 514, no. 7521 (2014): 181-186.|
|↑6||Azad, Meghan B., Ahmed M. Abou-Setta, Bhupendrasinh F. Chauhan, Rasheda Rabbani, Justin Lys, Leslie Copstein, Amrinder Mann et al. “Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 189, no. 28 (2017): E929-E939.|
|↑8||Healthier Condiments. American Heart Association.|
|↑9||Samraj, Annie N., Oliver MT Pearce, Heinz Läubli, Alyssa N. Crittenden, Anne K. Bergfeld, Kalyan Banda, Christopher J. Gregg et al. “A red meat-derived glycan promotes inflammation and cancer progression.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, no. 2 (2015): 542-547.|
|↑10||Ley, Sylvia H., Qi Sun, Walter C. Willett, A. Heather Eliassen, Kana Wu, An Pan, Fran Grodstein, and Frank B. Hu. “Associations between red meat intake and biomarkers of inflammation and glucose metabolism in women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2014): ajcn-075663.|