10 foods than can cause inflammation in the body and 10 that fight it

Most people tend to think of inflammation in terms of external signs: swelling, bruising, redness, heat and so on, like when you stub your toe, that immediate pain you feel is the body working in action to help fix whatever just happened. It is a normal and effective response that facilitates healing.

Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is a different story and can be caused by diet, stress, lack of exercise, smoking, pollution, and lack of sleep. It can be seen in those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, coeliac disease, and irritable bowel disease. It can also play a part in asthma and diabetes.

On occasions, weight gain can also be attributable to inflammation as inflammation in the body makes our weight control hormone (leptin) to be less effective, which therefore causes weight gain. Thus, the two often come hand in hand.

Inflammation occurs naturally in your body as the first line of defence against toxins, infections and injuries. The body naturally becomes inflamed in order to heal ‘wounds’. In the case of swelling and bruises etc the repair process is quite speedy, however factors such as stress or harmful diet cause the inflammatory to hang around for considerably longer. If the problem isn’t resolved quickly or the body is in an inflammatory state for too long, it can cause lasting damage to your heart, brain and other organs. For example, when inflammatory cells live in the blood vessels for too long, they increase the build-up of dangerous plaque. The body sees this plaque as foreign and sends more of its first responders. As the plaque continues to build, the arteries can thicken, making a heart attack or stroke much more likely. It can also trigger a number of other increasing common chronic diseases such as obesity, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression.

Here are the top ten worst offending foods that can contribute or trigger inflammation:

1. Refined Sugar

No surprises that sugar is at the top of the list. Sugar found in fizzy drinks, pastries and cakes, sweets, and snack bars, all increase levels of glucose in our body, which our bodies cannot process quickly enough. This increases levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body, increasing levels of inflammation in the body. Sugar also suppresses the immune system and makes it more susceptible to diseases and infection.

2. Vegetable Oil

Vegetables oils from corn, canola, soybean and safflower and all the products that contain them (even vegan “butter” spreads), are high in omega-6 fats (the bad ones, not the good ones like those found in evening primrose oil), which reduces the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. When the body gets out of balance in these fats, inflammation is a result.

3. Dairy Products

All dairy products are high in saturated fats, which are naturally inflammation-causing in some people. It is also a common allergen as our bodies have trouble digesting lactose and casein proteins. For many people dairy is seen as a foreign invader in the body, in which the bodily response is an inflammatory “attack”.

4. Wheat, Rye, and Barley

These wheat-containing grains all contain a common allergen – gluten. The body responds with an inflammatory immune response when confronted by allergens, and so the resulting effects can be body pain, mucus production (runny nose, coughing up mucus), and tiredness.

5. Fried Foods

Fried foods are another trigger for inflammation. They contain high levels of inflammatory advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are formed when anything is cooked to high temperatures, smoked, dried, fried, pasteurised or grilled.

6. Refined Flour

Refined flour, in other words, anything that is white and not whole-wheat, has been stripped of slow-digesting fibres and nutrients, which means your body breaks down these items very quickly. This will spike insulin levels, resulting in a pro-inflammatory body response.

7. Red Meat

When we consume red meat, a chemical called Neu5gc is produced. This chemical spurs cancer progression and produces an inflammatory response in the body.

8. Processed Corn

Corn is in many products. You really need to be careful to avoid this one. There are a variety of corn derivatives like high-fructose corn syrup, corn flour, and corn oil. Eating corn in these refined forms spikes blood sugar and as we have seen above, spiked blood sugar leads to an increased insulin response, which creates a major inflammatory response.

9. Artificial Chemicals and Additives

Anything artificially created, like chemicals and additives in foods, are not recognised by the body. They are foreign, and so naturally, the body needs to defend itself from these synthetic compounds, which means an inflammatory immune system response.

10. Trans Fats

Trans fats, aside from causing cancer, also create low-density lipoproteins, which feed inflammation. Trans fats are found in hydrogenated oils and many processed foods.

Foods That Fight Inflammation

If you discover that some of the 10 food above are causing inflammation in your body, the good news is that you can fight this by incorporating the 10 foods below. Remember that inflammation is also caused by stress, lack of sleep, pollution, smoking, and lack of exercise (as mentioned below), so it isn’t just diet you need to focus on. Practice stress-reduction techniques, go to sleep earlier, quit smoking (if you do), and start walking if you’re not active.

1. Turmeric

One of the best anti-inflammatory foods out there. It’s active ingredient, curcumin, inhibits the activity of COX-2 and 5-LOX, two enzymes involved in the inflammatory response. Curcumin also blocks inflammatory pathways and prevents inflammatory proteins from triggering pain and swelling. Add a turmeric latte to your daily routine using almond milk, you can buy turmeric latte blend from here>

2. Blueberries

High in antioxidants, which prevent oxidative stress and inflammation. Promote the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines in the body, which leaves us with lower levels of inflammation in the body.

3. Dark Leafy Greens

Kale, collards, spinach, romaine, you name it! All amazing inflammation fighters, rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules.

4. Avocado

Avocados contain polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs) and phytosterols, which provide our bodies with anti-inflammatory benefits.

5. Watermelon

Watermelon is incredibly alkalizing, watermelon helps buffer the acid intake from a high-acid diet (namely, a high-inflammatory diet).

6. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds contain an ideal ratio of omega’s 3 and 6. Omega-6 fats contain GLA, which works in the body as an anti-inflammatory, decreasing inflammation and helping people suffering from inflammatory-related diseases.

7. Mushrooms

Mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms contain high-molecular-weight polysaccharides (HMWP), which improve immune function and help battle inflammation.

8. Ginger

Similar to turmeric, ginger is an anti-inflammatory healing root that boosts the immune system and breaks down the accumulation of toxins in the body.

9. Beetroot

High in antioxidants, beets help fight to repair cell damage caused by inflammation. They are also high in inflammation-fighting potassium and magnesium.

10. Pineapple

Pineapples contain the inflammation-fighting enzyme called bromelain. It helps regulate the immune response that often creates unwanted inflammation in the body.

If you are interested in the beneficial and nutritious properties of spices and how to cook with them through authentic Indian recipes – buy my book ‘A Cupboard Full of Spices’ here>

If you’d like to attend my brand-new nutrition masterclass ‘The Alchemy of Food’ you can see more information and book the class here>