Let’s be honest, our nutrition classes didn’t really do a fantastic job of warning us about inflammatory foods. These days, a lot of us learn through trial and error.
I’ve tried every fad diet known to man. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I have tried a lot – definitely more than the average person. I’ve gone vegan, low-carb, low-oxalate, low-fat, etc. And while I would feel good on some of them for a little while, I would always experience the problems I tried hard to get rid of: breakouts, stomachaches, fatigue, headaches, and anxiety. The reason, I found out later on, was because these diets still included pro-inflammatory ingredients and additives.
Knowing what I know now, I understand that I don’t have to cut out an entire food group – I just need limit the foods that are inflammatory. Today, we will go over which ingredients and foods are known to cause inflammation.
Refined carbohydrates, also commonly known as “simple carbs,” are sugars and grains that have been stripped of nutrients, fiber, and bran. Some examples of refined carbohydrates include breads, flour, cereals, cakes, white rice, chips, and more. Simple carbs score high on the glycemic index, a system that is used to measure certain foods and their relation to how high (and how quickly) they raise blood sugar levels. Refined carbohydrates reach your bloodstream quickly and spike your blood sugar, which causes an inflammatory response in the body.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Foods that contain refined carbs are most likely to include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the ingredient list, since it’s one of the most commonly used sweeteners for foods and beverages. But consuming too many products that have HFCS can lead to diabetes, inflammation, and liver disease. Unfortunately, many packaged foods contain HCFS including condiments, peanut butter, jams, candies, juices, sodas, cookies, and cereals. The best way to avoid HCFS is to opt for organic foods like fruits and vegetables.
Foods Cooked in Seed Oils
Seed and vegetable oils are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), but too much of them can cause inflammation, which can turn into obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The reason why seed oils are inflammatory is because of how they're made. After seeds are gathered from corn, soy, rapeseed, or sunflower, the seeds are heated at extremely high temperatures, causing the unsaturated fats in them to oxidize, which creates harmful byproducts to humans. So, instead of choosing pro-inflammatory cooking agents like sunflower oil or canola oil, use coconut and olive oil instead!
Popular coloring agents like Red 40 and Yellow 6 contain questionable chemicals that have been linked to cancer.
Food additives like artificial dyes, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, and titanium dioxide may create inflammatory responses in the body. Popular coloring agents like Red 40 and Yellow 6 are made up of questionable chemicals that have been linked to cancer, and other additives like maltodextrin can cause intestinal inflammation. Most packaged and processed foods contain additives – it’s almost impossible to find items at the grocery store that don’t have any. But if we can limit the number of additives we consume in our daily lives, the more we can avoid negative effects.
Gluten is found in rye, barley, wheat, pasta, crackers, beer, and cereals. Individuals that are more sensitive to gluten might experience a number of problems that they may not attribute to gluten intolerance. Some examples include anxiety, fatigue, skin problems, joint and muscle pain, and stomach issues. However, not everyone experiences negative effects from eating foods that have gluten. Typically, only people with gluten sensitivities or celiac’s disease should have to avoid it.
While coffee may have some benefits like boosting energy levels, and possibly extend life expectancy, coffee in the U.S. is largely unregulated. This means your coffee may have high amounts of mycotoxins – toxic substances produced by fungi – which prompt the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, thus creating an inflammatory response in the body. If you're an avid coffee drinker, your best bet is to buy coffee grown at higher altitudes since they tend to be much higher in quality.
It’s difficult to narrow down which foods will cause an inflammatory response in your body. Most times it requires some trial and error to really figure out which ones you should avoid. And unfortunately, so many of our packaged foods contain pro-inflammatory additives, so avoiding them altogether might be difficult. The best way to keep your body healthy is to limit these items and to incorporate a more balanced diet.
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