Food can be a source of inflammation through allergens, bacteria or other toxins. The body can also see foods that “don’t agree” with its biochemistry which causes your whole body to start attacking these “foreign invaders,” thus causing more inflammation in the bloodstream, Sadie Wells, RD, LDN, CPT, says.
Similarly, she adds, eating unhealthy food is like having a chronic infection that triggers an immune response which then causes inflammation.
Generally speaking, a diet high in trans-fatty acids, saturated fats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates contributes to chronic inflammation, Nicole Simonin, a health and fitness expert at Shape it Up, says.
Any food that your body is intolerant or allergic to can also be a significant source of inflammation, and low-grade inflammation is a factor in most health issues.
Ask any nutritionists and the answer will be the same: Sugar is the worst offender. “Excess sugar intake raises our pro-inflammatory cytokine levels while suppressing our germ-killing white blood cells, weakening the immune system,” Wells says.
Even natural sugar (in excess)
Although less of a concern, too much sugar, even the natural sugar from fruit, could be too much (usually if combined with other sugar-laden foods) and can cause inflammation, Wells says. “Some research suggests avoiding nightshade vegetables—tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant—due to the compound called solanine, to help reduce arthritis symptoms,” she adds.
Trans fat which are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils or shortening are still top of the list for inflammatory disease such as diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and arthritis, Simonin says. “In our American diets, the main source of trans fats is in shortening.” Manufacturers typically use this in fast foods as well as fried foods, sweets and baked goods, she adds.
Omega-6 oils such as corn, safflower and sunflower are not bad if used in moderation, but a typical American diet ingests too much omega-6 oils which can cause inflammatory responses in the body, Simonin says.
Most meats/animals are fed an unnatural, grain-based diet which makes them gain weight faster and contain higher amounts of saturated fats and Omega-6’s, Wells says. “Various processing technologies, cooking techniques, such as grilling, can further promote inflammation by increased hormone levels, antibiotic resistance, and other carcinogens (AGE’s=advanced glycation end products),” she adds.
Highly processed oils
The worst types of oils are the highly processed oils such as hydrogenated and partial hydrogenated oils such as soybean, corn and canola oils, Simonin says. Because these oils have become processed by hydrogenation this oil can convert to trans fat.