10 Foods That Cause Inflammation | A Guide On What Foods To Avoid

Inflammation is a process within the body that can wreak havoc and lead to disease. In this post, we’ll reveal 10 foods that cause inflammation. You’ll learn what foods to avoid and how to make the best choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Overhead view of packaged foods that may cause inflammation in the body as discussed in 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.

There is a lot of hype these days about how to live a healthy lifestyle. I am so glad the tides are turning in this direction, and as you know, I am definitely riding the wave!

One of the words thrown around these days in the healthy eating world is “inflammation.” And for good reason.

You see, folks, inflammation in the body can be harmful. 

First off, I will say that the inflammatory response to injury is a natural and necessary one, in that inflammation helps the body repair. But, what about when you are not injured? 

That’s the inflammation I am talking about. Disease-causing inflammation, and inflammation that makes you feel bloated and blah. 

In a nutshell, chronic inflammation spread throughout the body is harmful. And what you eat can actually play a big part in the inflammatory process.

You are here because you want to eat right, and you are working on a clean-eating, healthy lifestyle. Let’s take a look at inflammation and how avoiding inflammatory foods will get you one step closer!

HOW DO UNHEALTHY FOODS CAUSE INFLAMMATION?

Chronic inflammation is associated with certain diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and depression and can also cause plaque build-up in the arteries, leading to stroke and heart disease. 

Scientifically put, certain foods can affect inflammatory markers in the body, namely C-reactive protein found in the blood. For example, processed sugars can flip the switch for an inflammatory response. Consistently eating a lot of sugar results in chronic inflammation and the resulting disease.

A diet made up of the following foods, among others we will discuss, will maintain the inflammatory response I’m talking about:

  • Trans fats, like margarine
  • Processed meats, like sausage and bacon
  • Fried foods
  • Foods with refined sugar

Overhead view of yogurt flavored raisins, which are an inflammatory food because of the added sugar and artificial ingredients.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING NON-INFLAMMATORY FOODS

The benefits are aplenty, my friends! That’s why it just makes so much sense to eat this way. Not only will you feel more energized and more focused, but these results are also worth the effort, too.

  • Eating fruits and vegetables gives your body anti-inflammatory nutrients
  • Omega 3’s balance the inflammatory processes in the body
  • Eating clean as opposed to processed and fatty foods reduces the intake of unhealthy fats
  • Foods like whole grains, beans, and lentils contain antioxidants that repair cell and tissue damage
  • Non-meat based proteins, like nuts, are less inflammatory
  • Vitamin deficiencies that you may have will disappear once you start eating healthier

 

Hand holding a prepared pumpkin pie from the store to demonstrate the unhealthy ingredients added to store-bought pumpkin pies in 10 Foods That Can Cause Inflammation.

CAN INFLAMMATORY FOODS STALL WEIGHT LOSS?

Yes, there is a link between chronic inflammation and the body’s inability to shed excess weight. Not only that, but eating food that causes inflammation leads to bloating, joint pain, headaches, and a host of other issues that we don’t want.

Sugar, big on the inflammatory response scale, leads to both inflammation and weight gain, so it’s only normal they go hand in hand. Foods containing empty calories (think potato chips, soda, and processed meats) increase the body’s acid production, which also leads to inflammation.

Simple steps like clean eating, following my 5-Day Anti-inflammatory Diet Meal Plan, and drinking lots of water will help you reduce inflammation. You will feel well balanced, and achieve the weight loss you are looking for.

ARE PEANUTS INFLAMMATORY?

Peanuts are not thought to be on the list of high-inflammatory foods. In fact, nuts, including peanuts, are a healthy and suggested replacement for red meat, processed meat, refined grains, potato chips, and more. 

Side view of a cup of coffee, not thought to be an inflammatory food as discussed in 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.

IS COFFEE INFLAMMATORY?

Coffee is not inflammatory. In fact, coffee contains anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols, known to reduce inflammation. Remember though, what you put in your coffee makes a difference. Stick to a little bit of almond milk and leave out the processed coffee whitener and processed sugar.

IS DAIRY INFLAMMATORY?

Casein is a protein found in milk, as is whey. Casein makes up 80% of a dairy product and whey comprises the other 20%. Casein is particularly hard to break down in the digestive system, and because of this, can cause a strain that leads to digestive trouble and inflammation. Bloating and gas are just two of the symptoms of an inflammatory response to dairy.

Overview of a carton of white eggs as mentioned in10 Foods That Cause Inflammation; eggs are inflammatory to some and not to others.

ARE EGGS INFLAMMATORY?

Studies show that eggs can influence the body’s inflammatory response. The interesting thing here is, the response can be both pro- and anti-inflammatory. Eggs and their consumption can affect different people in different ways. To put it simply, research does suggest that eggs can cause inflammation based on factors like weight and presence of disease. And these factors will change whether the response is a positive or negative one.

When it comes to eggs, pay attention to your body and avoid eating them if doing so causes a negative effect like bloating.

FOODS THAT ARE ANTI- INFLAMMATORY

The great news here is, there are tons of foods that are inflammatory. From fruits and vegetables to healthy fats found in flaxseed and fish, the list is full of delicious foods to enjoy on their own or in clean-eating recipes.

  • Blueberries, strawberries, cherries contain antioxidants
  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale prevent tissue damage
  • Fish like salmon and mackerel boost Omega 3s
  • Colorful vegetables such as beets, peppers, zucchini, and sweet potatoes
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts such as walnuts and almonds
  • Probiotics like yogurt get rid of bad bacteria in the gut
  • Avocados provide heart-healthy fats

Overhead view of fresh ginger, thought to fight inflammation as discussed in 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE INFLAMMATION?

Sure, food plays a major part in inflammation, but there are other steps you can take to limit the problem.

  • Be physically active
  • Get outside a few minutes a day at the least – Vitamin D helps regulate immunity
  • Intermittent Fasting is proven to reset the metabolism, thereby reducing inflammation
  • Turmeric fights inflammatory conditions; try adding the spice to your food or take a supplement
  • Ginger is known to improve digestion and reduce inflammation
  • Green tea may reduce inflammation
  • Switch from dairy to plant-based products  

10 FOODS THAT CAUSE INFLAMMATION

Side view of a package of trail mix with added sugars in 10 Foods That Fight Inflammation.

1) ADDED SUGARS

Processed and packaged foods that line grocery store shelves are full of added sugars. Both sucrose (you know it as table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup (found in so many products) are true villains when it comes to inflammation. Cancer, fatty liver disease, obesity, chronic kidney disease, and more are related to excessive sugar intake.

Avoid pastries, cookies, cereals, and candy. You know, basically all of the packaged convenience foods so typical of today. Finding it hard to quit the sugar habit? I did it, and I am telling you that you can, too!

Overhead view of packaged energy bars which typically have trans fats in the form of hydrogenated oils.

2) TRANS FATS

Artificial trans fats are high up there on the list of inflammatory foods to avoid. Think about it, foods last for months on the grocery store shelf thanks to the addition of trans fats. When you look at it that way, it’s not really something that you want to put in your body, right?

Stay away from packaged cookies and cakes, french fries, shortening, and margarine. If you see trans fats on the label, walk away.

Overhead view of fat-free Fig Newtons that contain refined carbs as discussed in 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.

3) REFINED CARBOHYDRATES

Raising your blood sugar. Eating empty calories devoid of fiber and vitamins. Increasing inflammation through food processing methods. None of that sounds appetizing, does it? 

Honestly, thinking about eating crisp vegetables, juicy fruits, and satisfying whole grains sounds much more inviting than eating a bag of chips, a handful of cookies, and a soda. Make the move. Cut processed foods out of your diet, and you will feel amazing!

Homemade Chili Cheese Dog Recipe

4) PROCESSED MEAT

Now, eating processed meats really doesn’t appeal to me either. Meat that is full of nitrates and nitrates doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as a grilled skinless chicken breast or a nice slice of roast beef. 

Avoid eating processed meat and you will reduce your risk of stomach and colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Cooking sliced meats at a high temperature is what adds the inflammatory factor. Give them up for clean eating recipes, and you’ll be that much healthier!

Overhead view of the label of a bottle of salad dressing which contains MSG, one of the 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.

5) MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

If you are a lover of deli meat, fast food, canned vegetables, and prepared Asian food, you are consuming MSG, otherwise known as monosodium glutamate. It is a known cause of food-related inflammation. It has been classified as “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, but it is best to be avoided.

Look for “no MSG added” when out at restaurants or eating take-out food.

View of a box of couscous, which contains inflammation-causing durum wheat as discussed in 10 Foods That Fight Inflammation.

6) GLUTEN

Many choose not to eat foods containing gluten. As well, people who have conditions like celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten due to its effects on the intestine. There is an inflammatory reaction that can affect the organs and tissues.

Bread, couscous, and other foods made with wheat, barley, and rye are the culprits. Avoid inflammation by purchasing foods that are gluten-free. When reading the labels, however, make sure that the gluten-free product does not contain unnecessary added ingredients like potato starch or tons of sugar. Better yet, make your own breads and muffins at home.

Overhead view of a bottle of soda; aspartame is found in soda and is one of 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.

7) ASPARTAME

Aspartame is an artificial sugar. It has no nutritional value. It was used by diabetics years ago primarily but is now used as a replacement for sugar in many items. People choose to buy diet sodas and other sugar-free food items as a weight control aid.

Not only does aspartame cause inflammation, but it also could lead to you making more unhealthy choices. Aspartame and other sweeteners like it may make you crave more sweet food and turn your back on vegetables and other “less-intensely sweet” foods.

Overhead view of a container of yogurt which is a dairy product and contains casein, one of 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.

8) CASEIN

Milk products contain casein. Studies prove that casein can cause digestive discomfort, gastrointestinal inflammation, small intestine inflammation, and increased inflammatory markers when blood tests were done. Cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and milk contain casein.

Shop for plant-based alternatives like almond or coconut milk, and plant-based yogurt and cheese.

Overhead view of three bottles of salad dressing that may contain Vegetable or seed oils that can cause inflammation.

9) VEGETABLE OILS AND SEED OILS

Do you ever use vegetable, safflower, soy, peanut or corn oil? How about salad dressings that contain them? An overabundance of Omega 6s found in these products can trigger an inflammatory response in the body. 

Better choices for oil are olive, coconut, grapeseed, and avocado oils. Olive oil has many antioxidants, and using this oil in cooking may reduce your chance of heart disease and stroke. Grapeseed oil has antioxidants, too and also has Vitamin E.

A glass of Llano Estacado Pinot Grigio wine next to the bottle of Llano Estacado Pinot Grigio; alcohol can cause inflammatory processes in the body.

10) ALCOHOL

CRP, or C-reactive protein, is an inflammatory marker that shows an elevation in those who consume alcohol to a level that is beyond safe for them. Drinking more than one drink per day for women and two for men can cause inflammation. What happens is the liver cannot function properly and toxins are released into the body.

Keep your alcohol intake at a minimum or consider not drinking at all.

This post contains affiliate links for products I use regularly and highly recommend.

Lacey Baier

Hey y’all, I’m Lacey Baier and I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, A Sweet Pea Chef. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

One thought on “10 Foods That Cause Inflammation | A Guide On What Foods To Avoid

  1. I’m coming off of a 114 days of the carnivore diet I went on this due to the testimonies claiming that it could help a lot with rheumatoid arthritis from which I suffer
    I am finding this post enormously helpful as I re enter different type of eating

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