Last updated on February 10th, 2019 at 08:05 pm
Dairy, gluten and night shades aren’t the only foods that can worsen inflammation, this short list features 5 inflammatory foods that are usually sold as healthy, but in reality aren’t.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a completely normal reaction of your immune system to a harmful stimuli, like for example a virus or bacteria. It’s an essential process that we need to stay alive and survive.
When Inflammation Gets Bad…
The problem with inflammation is when it becomes chronic. Then the reaction of the immune system goes against our own tissues and organs – slowly progressing into a chronic disease.
Low-grade chronic inflammation has been linked to most chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases like arthritis.
You don’t really notice you have low-grade chronic inflammation, but you kinda feel like crap. Maybe you’re constantly tired, your skin doesn’t look that great and you might even have some stomach pain.
Now, if you decide you want to stop feeling like this, you might want to start an anti-inflammatory diet, which can help you reduce chronic inflammation.
What is the anti-inflammatory diet?
To adopt an anti-inflammatory diet you need to eat more foods that are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats (especially omega-3’s) and fiber (these are called anti-inflammatory foods).
Also, you need to limit foods that have a high glycemic index, are rich in omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats (those are called inflammatory foods). There are also specific foods like gluten, dairy and certain vegetables (night shades) that could be harmful for people with intolerances.
If you want more information on this, I have a more detailed guide on how to eat to reduce inflammation here.
5 Inflammatory Foods You Need To Stop Eating
When it comes to diet, everyone can be intolerant or allergic to anything. For example, I am allergic to raw carrots, apples, cherries, almonds, hazelnuts… Are they bad for others? No. These are all great, antioxidant-rich foods that actually reduce inflammation in most people.
In this article I’m not talking about foods like gluten or dairy.
Unlike dairy, gluten and night shades, the foods on this list can increase inflammation in all of us.
These are “healthy” diet foods which, when eaten way too often can increase your risk for a number of diseases. These inflammatory foods usually a healthier option for something you shouldn’t eat.
1. Vegetable chips
Bean chips, lentil chips, chickpea chips, beet chips, kale chips – so many new options just to get rid of those evil potato chips.
Well, the fact is…when you take something healthy like beet, slice it, put some sunflower oil on it and then heat it without any water until it dries out, you aren’t going to get something super healthy.
Here it’s not about the original ingredient, beet, it’s about the way you prepare it. These chips are usually made with sunflower oil that isn’t heat stable and is way too rich in omega-6 fatty acids (which are essential, but can be inflammatory when you eat too many).
Better Option: Raw nuts. They’re antioxidant-rich, high-fiber and actually have anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Agave syrup or other sweeteners
For years I thought that refined sugar was the devil and eating more natural liquid sweeteners is better for me. I was even planning to compare honey and sugar on this blog and just make sugar ugly cry.
I thought, well honey is anti-bacterial, has some other benefits. Well. Honey does have benefits, but they don’t justify overusing honey. Honey is something you can use a little bit of.
Your body doesn’t really care whether you eat honey, agave, maple or pure evil sugar. All increase the glycemic load and thus can increase inflammation.
Another reason to avoid sweeteners is they all lead to the formation of AGE’s in the body – which cause wrinkles, but also increase oxidative stress and inflammation.
Better option: fruit. Fruit comes with fiber (important for reducing glycemic load) and antioxidants and it’s harder to overdo on sugar when you eat whole fresh fruit (not juice).
3. Energy bars
So energy bars are sold as the “healthier” version of candy bars. But many of them are just LOADED with sugar. Whether that’s syrup or honey – as you can see above – all the same. Sugar = Inflammation.
Better option: nuts and fruit. Make your own bars or buy one that’s actually made with only nuts and dried fruit. You’ll get more fiber and antioxidants that are actually anti-inflammatory and will nourish your body.
4. Grilled meats
Now this one I see on many websites that would tell you you need to exclude grains, legumes, even fruit & nuts in order to reduce inflammation.
Yet somehow grilled meat, which can be a huge source of carcinogens and AGE’s is the main ingredient in every recipe. Along with vegetables (which is always the good thing).
Better Option: Believe it or not you can get your protein also from those much avoided legumes, grains, nuts. In fact here are 15 high-protein, low-carb plants you need to eat more often.
These foods are actually better, because they also contain antioxidants and fiber – both shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
With meat and fish, instead of grilling or baking (just because you want to avoid frying) – try steaming or cooking at lower temperatures with herbs and spices, also not with direct & dry heat.
5. High-fiber Cookies
Now while fiber is good and can reduce inflammation, high-fiber cookies are mostly also full of sugar. Which again, sorry for repeating, causes inflammation. And even wrinkles. Just because something is rich in one good nutrient (like fiber here) doesn’t mean it’s good overall.
Better option: Make your own high-fiber cookies by mixing some oats, nuts and fruit (for example banana or even dried fruit).
I noticed this topic causes so much confusion and it seems like if you’re not with us and eliminate a million and ten foods (with good ones among them) – you’re just gonna be sick all the time.
But diet is not black and white.
If you want to eat either of these foods above, go for it, if you enjoy them. If you don’t overdo it, nothing’s gonna hurt you. It’s about making better, informed choices, most of the time.