Avoid Foods That Cause Inflammation
There are a few types of food that should be avoided or eaten much less often because they make the body inflamed. Some research, like a study in The
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has shown a link between inflammation and processed foods, alcohol, trans fats, an imbalanced ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, and sugar. Some people also have allergies or intolerances to foods like gluten, dairy, and nightshade vegetables that cause inflammation.
A lot of processing. Food that has been changed from how it was grown or raised is called “processed.” Even vegetables that have already been cut are “processed.” In this book, though, I’m talking about highly processed or
Ultra processed foods when I say to avoid processed foods. These are foods that have been changed a lot from their original form. Foods made with refined “white” grains and flours (which have been stripped of fiber and nutrients), added sugars, artificial colors, flavors, stabilizers, and other chemicals are becoming more common in the standard American diet.
Ultra Processing makes food last longer on store shelves and in restaurants, but it can also make food higher in calories and lower in fiber and other nutrients that the body needs for health. Fried foods are often made with a lot of chemicals, so I’ll suggest healthier alternatives to fried foods all through this book.
Alcohol. If you drink more than what is recommended by the DGAs, which is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, it can cause inflammation in your body, especially in your gut and liver. If you need to keep an anti-inflammatory diet for your health, you might want to stop drinking or only drink every once in a while.
Trans fats and the wrong amount of fat. After the FDA found a strong link between trans fats, inflammation, and heart disease, they were banned in the
US. People now know more about the dangers of trans fats, but they can still be found in small amounts under the name “partially hydrogenated oils” on food labels. According to research published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, an imbalance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids may also make inflammation worse.
The standard American diet tends to have more omega-6s than omega-3s, so adding omega-3s to a diet to reduce inflammation will be necessary.
Sugar and things that are like sugar. The rules about added sugar are clear now: According to the American Heart Association (AHA), no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar (25 grams for women, 36 grams for men). But an AHA study found that the average
Americans eat nearly 80 grams of sugar every day. AHA research suggests that sticking to the recommended amount of sugar could make inflammation levels go down. Almost no added sugars are in a diet full of whole foods (and sugar substitutes, which are usually found only in ultra processed foods).
Gluten and wheat. Whole grains that have been processed the least are usually good for reducing inflammation. However, if you have an allergy or intolerance to wheat or gluten, you might feel inflammation after eating wheat or gluten. Whole wheat is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but many people with autoimmune diseases, like celiac disease, can’t eat it.
Taking wheat or gluten out of your diet could be an interesting experiment to see if it makes you feel better.
Dairy. Even though studies have come to different conclusions about the link between dairy and inflammation, there is some evidence that proteins in dairy are linked to autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes (research has been published in Diabetologia). Other research has shown that fermented dairy (like yogurt, kefir, and sour cream) and low-fat dairy are especially good for reducing inflammation. In this book, dairy products are used very rarely, and non-dairy alternatives are always given. Dairy products are a good source of protein and minerals, so I’ve made sure to get those nutrients in other ways.
Soy milk has more protein and antioxidants than other non-dairy milks, so I often recommend it.
Nightshades. Some people with autoimmune diseases or other conditions that cause inflammation avoid nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants,white potatoes, paprika, cayenne pepper, and bell peppers because they worry that the solanine in these plants could make inflammation worse. There is no proof that the solanine in nightshades causes inflammation. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that these foods reduce inflammation. But because some people may be allergic to or sensitive to nightshade vegetables, they are only used in a few recipes in this book.
Here is a table that shows you at a glance what foods you should enjoy, eat less of, or avoid. You can and should use what you already know about your body to figure out what this means.
Best Foods to Eat
- Grains that are whole (quinoa, oats, brown rice)
- Legumes (beans, lentils, whole and fermented soy foods)
- Fruits and vegetables (leafy greens,cruciferous vegetables, squash, onions, carrots, peas, green beans, apples, oranges, stone fruit, berries, tropical fruit, and melons)
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include tree nuts, sesame, chia, flax, and sunflower seeds, as well as other
Foods to Reduce:
- Alcohol (beer, wine, spirits)
- Wheat, as well as gluten
Foods To Stay Away From
- Foods that have been heavily processed.
- Trans fats
- Added sugars
- Ultra Processed foods can typically be identified by the presence of ingredients such as sugar substitutes, artificial colors and flavors, and fried foods.