Pro-inflammatory foods increase inflammation and contribute to our risk of chronic illness, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even hormonal imbalances. In order to keep inflammation in check, you should limit or avoid the following foods.
- Refined sugars and grains: Foods such as white flour, white rice and table sugar (sucrose) can trigger inflammation by raising blood sugars and insulin. Junk foods, high-fat meats, sugary treats and fast foods all increase inflammation in your body. (Many of these foods also contain unhealthy fats that further exacerbate the problem.)
- Excess saturated fats: These fats, naturally found in meats, shellfish, egg yolks and dairy products, can promote inflammation. These foods also contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid. Although some arachidonic acid is essential for your health, too much of it in your diet will contribute to inflammation. Choosing low-fat milk and cheese and lean cuts of meat will lessen the inflammatory fallout.Foods that cause allergies: Most people with true food anaphylactic allergies are aware of them and make a point to steer clear of the offending food. Those of us with food sensitivities or intolerances, however, may not realize that certain foods cause inflammation, faulty digestion and even compromised immunity. Another reason why experimenting with the removal and slow reintroduction of foods that commonly cause sensitivities from your diet can be a very valuable exercise.
- Too much omega-6 fatty acid: Omega-6 and omega-3 are essential fatty acids that cannot be produced in the body. Sixty years ago the average American diet included a 1:2 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Today, the ratio is estimated at about 25:1. The optimal ratio is 1:1. We obtain much of our omega-6 from safflower, corn and sunflower oils used most commonly in baked goods and packaged items (now they are also commonly used in place of trans fats in trans fat-free products). Too much of these oils in our diet can turn on the hormonal signals involved in inflammation and even stimulate abnormal cell growth. Studies have shown that breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer cells grow at a much faster rate in the presence of these oils.
- Foods containing trans fats: Margarine; foods made with partially hydrogenated oils.
- Processed meats: Lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages contain nitrites and sulphites that are associated with increased inflammation.