What are Inflammatory Foods?

Top 12 Foods that Cause Inflammation

Everyday foods like bacon, eggs, coffee and dairy products are linked to inflammation. That might not sound like a big deal but when you consider that most chronic conditions like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and obesity have been linked to inflammation. Low grade inflammation is a factor in most health issues.  And if you suffer a pain disorder, you better believe that inflammatory foods will aggravate the condition.

Try reducing your consumption of these foods with the goal of eliminating them completely. The same holds true for alcohol and fried foods – both of these have been known to irritate and worsen arthritis

Many common foods in the Standard North American Diet can cause or exacerbate inflammation in the body.

Here are my picks for the top 12 inflammatory foods:

  1. What I call the “3 Ps”–Processed, packaged, or prepared foods. And, yes, fast food is atop the list of inflammatory foods thanks to the harmful oils, sugar and artificial sweeteners, food additives, and a whole host of nasty ingredients.
  2. Hydrogenated and trans fats found in margarine, shortening, lard or products made with them. That includes baked goods, cookies, pies, buns. Of course there are healthier alternatives to these baked goods but most grocery stores and bakeries are using these harmful ingredients.
  3. Meat (not wild-caught fish). I’m not suggesting that you have to go vegan or vegetarian here although a plant-based diet tends to be much lower in inflammatory substances but meat and poultry tend to cause inflammation so make them the background of your meals not the main dish.
  4. Fried foods (French fries, onion rings, potato chips, nachos, hamburgers, etc.). I think these items speak for themselves.
  5. White sugar and sweets, including soft drinks and sweetened juices. Newer research is showing that sugar is one of the most addictive substances you can use. It’s also highly inflammatory. No, you don’t need to eliminate sugar and sweets altogether simply reduce your consumption and choose fruit as your “go to” food when you’re craving something sweet.
  6. Synthetic sweeteners (Nutrasweet, Splenda, saccharin, aspartame, AminoSweet, etc.)—research links these nasty substances to many serious health conditions. I avoid them like the plague.
  7. Iodized Salt (use Celtic sea salt instead). Not harmful on its own but sodium is naturally found alongside other valuable minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Choose unrefined salt which naturally contains many different minerals, not just sodium.
  8. Food additives: colors, flavor enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, etc. Some of the main ones include sulfites, benzoates, and colors named FD&C #”X.” Unfortunately, many foods consumed by children are loaded with these harmful, toxic ingredients.
  9. Dairy products (yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, butter, cheese, etc.). The reasons dairy products are inflammatory are too lengthy to list here, but today’s dairy products are packed with hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful ingredients so avoid them as much as possible.
  10. Wheat products. Wheat is highly acid-forming and inflammatory in the body. Worse, most wheat available now is genetically-modified (GM). Many serious health conditions are starting to be linked to GM wheat consumption.
  11. Other gluten-containing grains. Gluten is found in most grains and is highly inflammatory. Choose grains or seeds like buckwheat, quinoa, or millet for your baking.
  12. Alcohol.  High in sugar and a burden to the liver, alcohol makes the top 12 inflammatory foods list. It is best eliminated or used in moderation.

Adapted from Arthritis-Proof: The Drug-Free Way to Beat Pain and Inflammation. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.

Here is a guide to help you choose the right foods.

Anti Inflammatory Food Guidelines
Dietary Guidelines Foods to Include Foods to Exclude
Fruits Fresh, Berries are the best, Unsweetened; dried or frozen. Oranges and juices
Vegetables All fresh raw, steamed, sautéed, juiced or roasted.  Greens are best Corn, iceberg lettuce or creamy vegetables
Starches Wild rice is best, brown Rice, GF oats, quinoa, amaranth, sweet or red potatoes.  Low usage of other potatoes Wheat, corn, barley, rye, kamut, white rice
Breads & Cereals Products made from above in low quantities Products made from above
Legumes (Vegetables & Protein) Legumes including peas & lentils All soy products, including organic tofu
Nuts & Seeds Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, sesame (tahini) sunflower, pumpkin. Nut butters with no additives. Peanuts & peanut butter
Meat & Fish (animal protein)   All fresh or frozen organic grass fed, beef, (minimal amounts of red meat) fish, chicken, turkey, wild game, water packed fish, eggs Pork, processed meats; cold cuts, sausage, hot dogs, canned meats, (other than water packed fish)
Dairy Products & Milk Substitutes All nut milks, rice milk, coconut milk & ice cream (ice cream minimal amounts) Organic grass fed butter (minimal amounts. Cow milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, non-dairy creamers, soy milk
Fats Cold pressed; olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, flax seed, sunflower, almond, walnut Canola, vegetable oils, margarine, shortening, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, spreads, soy
Beverages Water or herbal tea Soda pop; sugar or sugar free, alcohol, coffee, green or black tea, other caffeinated drinks, energy drinks
Spices & Condiments Organic Vinegar; apple cider, sea salt, pepper, basil, cumin, dill, cinnamon, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, cilantro.  Braggs aminos, coconut aminos. Ketchup, relish, soy sauce, anything with High Fructose Corn syrup or any form or corn sweetener.
Sweeteners Green Stevia, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, honey, black strap molasses, coconut sugar (minimal amounts) White or brown sugar, corn syrup, High Fructose, all artificial sweeteners
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