Are You Undermining Your Health by Eating These 7 Foods That Cause Inflammation?

The foods you eat can seriously impact inflammation levels in your body. Some foods help to quell out-of-control inflammation while others fan the flames. In this article, we’ll discuss how to reduce inflammation in the body, the health risks of inflammation, and seven foods that cause inflammation.

How Do You Reduce Inflammation in Your Body?

In the short term, inflammation can be your body’s way of protecting itself from injury or sickness. When your immune system recognizes anything foreign—which ranges from plant pollen to invading microbes—it often uses inflammation to fight back against what registers as a threat. This type of inflammation can actually be healing.

But when inflammation lingers, either after the threat has been resolved or when the threat was a false alarm to begin with, it can be quite damaging. Sustained, chronic inflammation is the opposite of healing. Studies have linked chronic inflammation to arthritis, heart disease, depression, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and more.

When it comes to how you reduce inflammation in your body, your diet is one of the most powerful tools you have. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” said Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet loaded with beneficial compounds—including amino acids—can be a wonderful way to lower inflammation in your body. Both nonessential amino acids and essential amino acids fight inflammation in a variety of ways.

While amino-acid rich foods decrease inflammation, other foods accelerate it. Avoiding those inflammatory foods is just as important as adding healthful options to your diet.

The Health Risks of Inflammatory Foods

A wealth of research has made it clear that eating certain foods can cause inflammation levels in the body to spike. When looking over a list of inflammatory foods, you’ll soon realize that practically most of the items on that list are known health saboteurs, like soda and processed meats.

Beware of these 7 foods that cause inflammation.

“Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation,” Dr. Hu said. “It’s not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases.”

Many unhealthy, inflammatory foods have been linked to weight gain, which can also increase inflammation in your body. When researchers factor out that weight gain, however, the link between the foods and higher levels of inflammation remains.

According to Hu, that indicates certain components of the foods have independent effects on inflammation separate from their tendency to lead to weight gain.

7 Foods That Cause Inflammation

Each entry on this inflammatory foods list has been linked to adverse health effects by thorough, high-quality research. For some, it’s safe to consume moderate amounts, but easy to overindulge and get yourself into trouble. For others. It’s best to stay away altogether.

Beware of these 7 foods that cause inflammation.

1. Sugar

The two main types of added sugar in the Western diet are table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Both these added sugars can increase inflammation, which subsequently increases your risk of a number of adverse health conditions.

According to a study published in Food & Function, eating a diet that contains high concentrations of fructose or sucrose, the two main components of sugar, can dramatically increase inflammation. The researchers found that it also adversely affected carbohydrate metabolism and antioxidant levels.

Another study investigated whether increased inflammation was the driving factor behind the established link between excessive sugar intake and breast cancer. The researchers found that: “sucrose intake in mice comparable with levels of Western diets led to increased tumor growth and metastasis.” They determined that effect had to do with inflammation-related changes to enzyme signalling.

And it appears that you can’t use healthy foods to undo the damage caused by unhealthy ones. In fact, the reverse may be true. A study published in PLoS One found that a high-sugar diet actually cancelled out the anti-inflammatory impact of omega-3 fatty acids!

2. Artificial Trans Fats

Created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats, which are liquid, in order to give them more stability, artificial trans fats are just plain bad for you.

Often appearing on ingredient lists as “partially hydrogenated” oils, these unhealthy fats with a long shelf life can be found in margarine as well as numerous other processed foods. A number of large, high-quality studies have shown that artificial trans fats cause inflammation.

Findings published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that artificial trans fat intake raises markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein (CRP). Participants who ate the most trans fats had 78% higher levels of CRP than other participants. The researchers carefully controlled for other factors related to inflammation, such as age, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, postmenopausal hormone therapy, and intake of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fatty acids.

Other studies confirm this link. A randomized, cross-over study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that increasing your intake of trans fats raised inflammation levels. And a randomized trial that focused specifically on how trans fats affect women’s health found that consuming artificial trans fats activates the tumor necrosis factor system, a known driver of inflammation.

3. Fried Foods

Surely it comes as no surprise that fried foods aren’t good for you. What you might not realize, however, is just how far-reaching the adverse health effects of eating French fries and other deep-fried foods can be.

“Research has shown that individuals who eat a diet high in deep-fried foods show a higher prevalence of inflammatory markers,” said Dr. Obianuju Helen Okoye, a public health physician and healthcare consultant based in St. Louis, MO.

A 2017 study that analyzed data from 5,083 participants found that eating fried foods was one of the dietary choices that led to chronic, low-grade inflammation. And that inflammation, in turn, increased the likelihood that participants would develop cognitive decline.

4. Refined Carbohydrates

Not all carbs are problematic, but refined carbohydrates definitely promote inflammation. One reason for that is most of their fiber has been removed. The fiber in unrefined, complex carbohydrate-dense foods promotes fullness, improves blood sugar control, and nourishes the helpful bacteria in your gut. Eating simple, refined carbohydrates on the other hand can, research shows, increase inflammation and spur insulin resistance.

A study that followed 1,490 women and 1,245 men for 13 years looked at how carbohydrate consumption influenced their chances of developing diseases linked to inflammation. Participants who reported the highest intake of refined carbohydrates and other high glycemic index (GI) foods were 2.9 times more likely to die of an inflammatory disease compared to those with the lowest intake.

5. Soda

Research indicates that even indulging in a soda on occasion can damage your health. Given that research has shown soda can increase your risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, a team of scientists set out to track how soda intake affects your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), another condition caused by underlying inflammation.

After analyzing data from 186,900 participants who had tracked their soda consumption over several decades, the team found that consuming less than a single serving of soda daily increased their risk of developing RA by 63% compared to those who did not drink soda or who drank less than a serving a month.

6. Processed Meat

Studies have shown that eating processed meat makes you more likely to develop a whole host of diseases linked to inflammation, including heart disease, diabetes, stomach cancer, and colon cancer.

Popular types of processed meat such as sausage, bacon, ham, and beef jerky contain high levels of a type of compound called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. Research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and elsewhere shows that AGEs, which form when meats and certain other foods that are high in fat and protein are cooked at high temperatures, can significantly increase inflammation and oxidative stress.

So far, the evidence linking processed meat intake and the development of colon cancer is the strongest. According to findings published in 2016, both epidemiological and experimental studies provide “overwhelming support” for the hypothesis that diets high in processed meats elevate your risk for colon cancer. And a primary reason for that, the authors note, is because eating processed meats leads to a higher inflammatory response.

7. Alcohol

Drinking the occasional glass of wine is unlikely to cause health problems, and may even provide some health benefits. But when the amount of alcohol you drink increases, the benefits disappear and negative effects begin to accumulate.

A study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, the official journal of the Medical Council on Alcohol, clearly showed that individuals who drank more than 30 grams of alcohol daily had the highest blood levels of CRP, an inflammatory marker.

A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, so that means both men and women should avoid consuming more than three drinks per day.

The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods Everyone Should Be Eating

When health experts speak of an “anti-inflammatory diet,” they hope to help people who suffer from chronic inflammation, but all can benefit from anti-inflammatory nutrients. Eating anti-inflammatory foods protects against certain diseases and slows the aging process. Here are the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat.

Chances are, you’ve come across the term before: anti-inflammatory foods. You have a general sense that it’s important to include these foods in your diet, and you may even be able to name a few, like fatty fish and leafy greens. You may also have questions: like why exactly it’s important to combat inflammation and what the best anti-inflammatory foods to do so might be. Read on to find out.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to a threat. When our immune system recognizes a threat, such as a microbe or a virus, it responds by releasing specialized defenses to neutralize that threat.

Inflammation forms a crucial component of the immune system’s defenses. Our body uses inflammation to heal itself and defend against invaders—a process that often involves some redness and swelling. If you sprain your ankle, for example, the surrounding area will swell and become inflamed while your body works to heal that injury. Short-term inflammation triggered by an injury or infection comprises an important part of the body’s healing process. But long-term, recurrent, persistent chronic inflammation? That’s an entirely different beast.

Chronic inflammation does not result from an injury or infection, but rather as the result of ongoing influences such as a lack of sleep, high levels of stress, or a poor diet. Unlike beneficial, healing, short-term inflammation, this type arises even when you’re not under direct threat from a foreign invader.

Chronic inflammation can be seen as an immune system dysfunction. In essence, the body sends a response to a threat that is perceived but that does not require an inflammatory response. The immune system then kicks into overdrive and won’t turn off. This can occur due to chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, or due to an inability to distinguish between real and perceived threats.

The Effects of Chronic Inflammation

When left unaddressed for too long, chronic inflammation can trigger a multitude of disease processes. This makes it fertile territory for many researchers who hope to better comprehend its mechanisms and foster methods for counteracting it.

Scientists are still working to understand all the effects of chronic inflammation, but it is clear that it has been linked to a host of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, bone loss, depression, aggressive behavior, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer. All these conditions can be affected by lifestyle and environmental factors, such as:

  • Excess weight
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Pollution
  • Poor oral health
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Chronic inflammation is, in essence, a prolonged state of emergency. The continued presence of inflammatory cells in the blood vessels leads to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which causes the walls of the arteries to thicken and harden. This, in turn, substantially increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Inflammation plays a significant role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease as well. Scientists have now proved unequivocally that inflammatory compounds can cross the blood-brain barrier, but have yet to identify exactly how they contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s and other conditions that adversely impact the health of the brain.

While elevated inflammatory markers unquestionably have an adverse impact on your health, the good news is that we have the ability to influence a number of factors that lead to chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases.

One of the most effective ways to fight chronically high levels of inflammation is through our diets. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

25 of the Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Diet

When health experts suggest adopting a proven anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, the primary goal of such an approach is to alleviate the negative outcomes experienced by individuals suffering from chronic inflammation. That said, everyone can benefit from eating more anti-inflammatory nutrients.

These 25 powerful anti-inflammatory foods can help protect against certain diseases and slow the aging process, stabilize blood sugar, increase metabolism, and even lower your cancer risk.

The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods Everyone Should Be Eating

To facilitate a concise and comprehensible overview of the ways certain foods with potent inflammation-quelling effects improve your health, we’ve divided them into four general categories:

  1. Vegetables and fruits
  2. Healthy fats
  3. Fiber-filled foods
  4. Herbs, spices, and more

Foods from these four categories provide crucial nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, niacin, and vitamin C that benefit your health on many levels.

1. Vegetables and Fruits

It’s no coincidence that just about every expert out there recommends vegetables and fruits as the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Loading up on these foods can help to combat weight gain, safeguard your heart health, prevent metabolic syndrome, and more.

In addition to common healthy eating favorites such as leafy greens and vitamin-C loaded oranges, make sure to incorporate plenty of cruciferous vegetables and alliums into your diet.

Cruciferous vegetables—a family that includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts—and alliums—such as garlic, scallions, onions, and leek—have antioxidant properties and have been shown to lower the risk of cancer. If you like garlic, eating one clove per day is ideal—it might add an extra punch to your favorite meals.

2. Healthy Fats

While popular opinion used to demonize fats, the truth is that far from undermining your health, they can dramatically improve it.

Plus, adding fat to your food enhances its flavor.

Oil is an essential ingredient in the kitchen and offers the opportunity to select a type of fat that brings health benefits, such as extra-virgin olive oil. Olive oil lowers the risk of heart disease by helping to reduce cholesterol levels.

A special place in your diet should go to avocados, which contain omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to have antioxidant properties. A 2013 study in the journal Food & Function found that people who ate a hamburger with avocado had lower levels of a kind of inflammatory marker called CRP (C-reactive protein) 4 hours after eating than those who did not.

Prioritizing healthy fats should impact your selection of proteins too. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases. Cold-water fish, such as salmon, herring, tuna, trout, and mackerel, are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include beans (navy, kidney, and soy), flax seeds, and walnuts.

Many foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like cold-water fish and beans, are also excellent sources of amino acids, which have strong inflammation-fighting effects of their own. A diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids and protein lowers the risk of chronic diseases and enhances muscle growth and strength.

3. Fiber-Filled Foods

In addition to many vegetables, like okra, eggplant, and onions, and a variety of fruits like bananas and blueberries, the best sources of fiber include whole grains such as brown rice, barley, and oatmeal.

The fiber in whole grains mediates inflammatory processes by helping with weight loss and feeding beneficial gut bacteria, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

4. Herbs, Spices, and More

When cooking vegetables, consider adding spices like ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves, and nutmeg, which have anti-inflammatory compounds. These spices add kick to your meal and are also good for your health.

Extensive research also shows that green tea and dark chocolate (in part due to its magnesium content) can lower inflammation levels.

Can Foods Cause Inflammation?

It’s important to introduce healthy foods into your diet to fight chronic inflammation, but it’s also critical to avoid certain foods.

It can be all too easy to inadvertently eat a pro-inflammatory diet by overdoing it on refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries, fried foods, soda and all the sugar-sweetened beverages, and processed meat such as hot dogs.

Most foods that contribute to inflammation are generally foods you should eliminate from your diet or consume in moderation, as they are linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Processed foods contain trans fats, which have higher levels of C-reactive protein, a cause of inflammation. It’s essential to read labels when you go grocery shopping—in 2006, the FDA required food manufacturers to identify trans fats on nutrition labels, so taking time to read the ingredients contained in the food you buy is crucial.

How to Build an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet includes several servings of foods high in amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids each week, fiber every day, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

You should also limit the consumption of saturated fat to 10% of your daily calories.

One way to help meet these goals is to snack strategically. You can add a few servings of healthy foods like berries or walnuts, and the powerful anti-inflammatory compounds they contain will stack up quickly.

If your meals need extra sweetness, try adding naturally sweet fruits rather than sugar. You may find that working in spices that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties to add flavor will have the added bonus of not necessitating as much added sweetness as you’re accustomed to.

There’s no one perfect anti-inflammatory diet, and it’s vital that you consider your own preferences as well as what scientists have discovered about certain foods. The most effective way to use foods to improve your health is not to adopt a short-term strategy like a cleanse but rather to make sustainable changes to your long-term interactions with food.

Amino Acids for Inflammation: Treat and Prevent Health Problems with 5 Potent Anti-Inflammatory Amino Acids

Chronic inflammation has been linked to many deadly modern diseases. One of the ways to fight inflammation is with an anti-inflammatory diet rich in amino acids. Recent studies focused on the use of amino acids for inflammation reduction have yielded highly promising results.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to many deadly modern diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, depression, and even cancer. Instead of fighting chronic inflammation with pharmaceutical drugs, which can damage our organs over the long term, we can focus on preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing serious health problems. Recent studies focused on the use of amino acids for inflammation reduction have yielded highly promising results.

In this article, we will first examine the biological mechanisms that result in chronic inflammation and then explain how anti-inflammatory amino acids can combat systemic inflammation at its source.

What Leads to Chronic Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is a complex condition, and experts have identified a host of risk factors that make individuals more likely to develop it, many of which are related to the overconsumption of inflammatory foods and other elements of a person’s lifestyle.

The simplest way to conceptualize chronic inflammation, also referred to as systemic inflammation, is as an inappropriate immune response.

The inflammatory response is a defense mechanism activated by the immune system in response to threats like joint sprains or the presence of viruses. Inflammation shows up in different ways, including pain, redness, and swelling. Short-term inflammation is an integral part of the healing process, but when inflammation becomes chronic, it begins to cause health problems.

Chronic inflammation sets in when the immune system begins regularly releasing inflammatory chemicals (such as pro-inflammatory cytokines) in the absence of an injury or infection.

When left untreated, chronic inflammation can lead to the development of a variety of harmful health conditions, such as:

Health care professionals can diagnosis chronic inflammation by testing for inflammatory markers in the bloodstream such as interleukin-1 and -6 (IL-1 and IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha), homocysteine, and C-reactive protein (CRP).

 

The Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan

Whether you hope to alleviate unpleasant symptoms associated with conditions linked to chronic inflammation or to combat its pernicious effects before they appear, adopting a proven anti-inflammatory diet is a highly effective treatment approach.

In a separate article, we provide an introduction to 25 powerful anti-inflammatory foods which we highly recommend you read. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing exclusively on the benefits of amino acids for inflammation.

Making foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids the cornerstone of your anti-inflammatory diet plan is a choice that will pay dividends. That’s because omega-3 laden foods like fatty coldwater fish and beans are also excellent sources of anti-inflammatory amino acids. Researchers have found that eating a diet replete with foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids can not only lower your risk of chronic diseases, but also help to enhance muscle growth and support healthy weight loss.

The Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Amino Acids

Amino acids are one of the most important types of nutrients—they make up proteins, which are needed in most biological processes in our bodies.

There are two basic types of amino acids relevant to conversations about human nutrition: the first can be made by the body and are therefore deemed nonessential amino acids (meaning that, under normal circumstances, it is not essential to supply the body with foods containing these amino acids), and the second are essential amino acids because humans must obtain them from the foods they eat. Both essential and nonessential amino acids play a crucial role in fighting inflammation.

The Top 3 Anti-Inflammatory Essential Amino Acids

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids:

  1. Leucine
  2. Isoleucine
  3. Valine

These amino acids—found in dairy, meat, and eggs, as well as other foods—are renowned for their ability to promote muscle growth and fuel significant strength gains. They also help reduce the time needed to recover between intense workouts by minimizing muscle damage and speeding up the rebuilding process.

Many of the most famous benefits of BCAAs can be attributed in part to their anti-inflammatory properties. It appears that, thanks to their anti-inflammatory capacity, BCAAs can be used for a number of medicinal purposes.

BCAAs show particular promise as a means of treating inflammation associated with liver disease. According to a study published in Nutrition, supplements containing a balanced formulation of leucine, isoleucine, and valine can have beneficial effects on hepatic encephalopathy,  liver regeneration, and hepatic cachexia. They promote ammonia detoxification, correct the imbalance of amino acids in the blood, and stimulate protein synthesis. The authors conclude that, for certain groups of patients, “BCAA treatment can significantly improve the health-related quality of life and the prognosis of hepatic disease.”

It’s important to note here that the positive influence of BCAAs, and indeed, of any single amino acid, depends on the body receiving adequate amounts of all the other essential amino acids. For this reason, most people will experience the greatest effect when supplementing with a balanced blend of all the essential amino acids.

The Top 2 Anti-Inflammatory Nonessential Amino Acids

As touched on previously, your body can generate its own supplies of nonessential amino acids, meaning that under normal circumstances, there’s no need to take in additional quantities of these amino acids. Chronic inflammation, however, is not a normal condition. Under these circumstances, it can be quite valuable to increase your intake of nonessential amino acids known to have potent anti-inflammatory effects. Two such nonessential amino acids are:

  1. Glutamine
  2. Glycine

Glutamine is not classified as an essential amino acid, but people who have gastrointestinal disorders or undertake intensive athletic training are often deficient in this amino acid, making it a conditionally essential amino acid in certain circumstances. Glutamine is used within the intestines, kidneys, and by the immune system—it has important antioxidant properties and can help reduce inflammation.

Studies in animal models (specifically, rodents and pigs) show that glutamine can help heal inflammatory bowel disease because this amino acid increases concentrations of friendly microbiota that support healthy digestion and decreases concentrations of hostile bacteria. Most animal proteins contain glutamine, and it can also be found in beans, spinach, cabbage, and parsley.

Another nonessential amino acid with pronounced anti-inflammatory benefits, glycine appears to be extra-effective for alleviating inflammation associated with:

A review published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care examined the protective mechanisms responsible for glycine’s impressive benefits. The authors found, among other things, that glycine suppresses the formation of pro-inflammatory substances such as inflammatory cytokines and free radicals. Glycine also protects against shock caused by hemorrhage and prevents ischemia and injury to a variety of tissues and organs including the liver, kidney, heart, intestine, and skeletal muscle. Ultimately, the authors determined: “Multiple protective effects make glycine a promising treatment strategy for inflammatory diseases.”

It’s easy to incorporate more glycine into your diet. Animal proteins, including meat, dairy, and fish, contain glycine in combination with all nine of the essential amino acids that your body needs to thrive.

Bone broth, for example, contains glycine, a wealth of other amino acids, and natural collagen. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can find glycine in plant-based sources like beans, spinach, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, banana, and kiwi.

 

One of the ways to fight inflammation is with an anti-inflammatory diet rich in amino acids.

Amino Acids for Inflammation: The Bottom Line

Nutrition is the first line of defense against chronic inflammation and the raft of modern (and preventable!) illnesses linked to that condition. Eating a diet rich in amino acids—all the essential aminos, including the BCAAs—and nonessential aminos like glutamine and glycine, helps to reduce inflammation, decrease harmful bacteria, and prevent injuries.

While it’s certainly possible to get all the amino acids you need for optimal health from diet alone, food restrictions, preferences, and lifestyle considerations (including a busy schedule) can make that challenging. To ensure you’re providing your body with the amino acids for inflammation it needs, consider supplementing with a complete essential amino acid formula.