Eating significant amounts of inflammatory foods can wreak havoc on your body. Luckily, if you follow an anti-inflammatory diet, you cannot only mitigate these effects but also see many health benefits. It can be challenging to know if you're following more of an inflammation diet or are on the right path without the proper knowledge. We're here to help you learn more about the process and to provide you with the ultimate anti-inflammatory food list.
At ChiroCare of Florida, we frequently see patients suffering the effects of chronic inflammation, which can result from consuming too many inflammatory foods in combination with current health conditions. Inflammatory foods can worsen existing health conditions, attacking joint tissue, abdominal discomfort, stiffness and soreness, and excessive fatigue.
Those with various forms of arthritis, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease should be especially careful to avoid an excess of inflammatory foods. However, filling your diet with options from our anti-inflammatory food list can benefit virtually everyone.
Keep reading to learn more about which foods cause inflammation. Additionally, we'll cover which foods are anti-inflammatory, how to start making changes today, and the many benefits of making these changes to your diet.
What Are Pro-Inflammatory Foods?
While there are times that your body can benefit from inflammation, such as when recovering from an injury, having too many inflammatory cells when they're not needed can be detrimental to your health. The most severe effects of eating too many inflammatory foods are heart attack and stroke, which can be fatal.
Here are the top five inflammatory foods you should avoid and why.
Added Sugars and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, adults should consume just six tablespoons of added sugar a day. However, most people average more than 17 teaspoons regularly. We know that added sugar is bad for our teeth and can cause a "sugar high" that ultimately leads to an energy crash, but it's terrible for inflammation too.
Things like soda, bread, cereal, cookies, and even granola bars can pack a high sugar content. Check the labels at the store before you make a purchase, and aim for foods that contain less than 4 grams of sugar per serving. Avoid the item if you see sugar or high-fructose corn syrup in the first three ingredients.
Trans fats are unnatural fats that food manufacturers often add to items to give them a longer shelf life. You'll also find them in fried foods such as chicken, French fries and fast food, margarine, and shortening. Experts state that there is no safe amount of trans fat to consume regularly. Not only does this type of unnatural fat cause inflammation, but it also raises your "bad" cholesterol."
When food shopping, trans fats can be hard to spot. A helpful hint is checking the ingredient list for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. This means trans fats are likely present.
Red Meat and Processed Meat
Red meat comes from cows (beef and steak), goats, sheep, and pigs (pork). Processed meats are cured, salted, fermented, or smoked. These foods are high in saturated fats and sodium, which can increase inflammation, blood pressure, and more. Processed meats also tend to have lots of nitrates, which can negatively impact the ability of your cells to carry oxygen through your body.
Avoid foods such as hotdogs, salami, pepperoni, hamburgers, packaged deli meat, steak, bacon, pork chops, and tenderloins, and recipes that contain ground beef.
Processed carbohydrates, also called refined carbohydrates, are another red flag for inflammatory foods. Refined carbohydrates consist of white flour and added sugars. They lack adequate levels of nutrition, and unfortunately, they're everywhere.
Examples of processed carbohydrates include white bread, white rice, pastries, cereal, pasta, bagels, tortillas, and even pizza dough. They cause spikes in blood sugar, leading to insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes.
Instead, look for whole-grain options and sources of natural carbohydrates. Switch out white rice for brown rice and white flour for whole-wheat flour, and add healthy carbs like quinoa, oatmeal, and high-fiber veggies.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
This can be tricky since, often, when we hear the word "omega," we think of the healthy omega-3s that help our bodies. Many people aren't familiar with the unhealthy counterpart, omega-6 fatty acids. They're found in many of the most common cooking oils, including canola, corn, sunflower, and peanut oil. Additionally, you'll find high levels of omega-6 in mayonnaise.
While in moderation, these fatty oils provide our bodies with energy, eating more omega-6s than omega-3s can trigger inflammation. Instead, use olive oil for cooking, and be aware of how many eggs, soybeans, and corn products you consume.
What Are Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
Anti-inflammatory foods fight unnatural inflammation in the body and promote good health. They're often natural, whole foods and pack high levels of antioxidants to fight free radicals. They can help ward off infection and manage symptoms of chronic health conditions aggravated by inflammation.
Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help relieve many different symptoms resulting from various conditions. Many of the items on the list are even foods that fight back pain, joint pain, and stiffness.
Here are the top five choices that top our anti-inflammatory food list.
Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries all have high levels of antioxidants and are natural sources of sugar. They're high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to operate efficiently. They also contain anthocyanins, which have an anti-inflammatory effect on your cells.
Try adding berries to plain greek yogurt at breakfast time or swap out those chips for a handful of these colorful treats when it's time for a snack to make a positive change in diet.
To fight an over-abundance of omega-6 in your diet, balance it out by incorporating lots of foods high in omega-3s. The most popular include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies. Nuts and seeds, like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts, also contain a good source of omega-3.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach are another excellent source, as well as edamame and seaweed. Try swapping out meals of pork and beef for these healthy fish and incorporate more salads into your diet.
Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts are all cruciferous vegetables that are excellent options to add to an anti-inflammatory diet. They contain fiber and antioxidants and can help reduce the levels of cytokines in your body, which contribute to excessive inflammation.
Switch out romaine lettuce salads for kale, make cauliflower rice instead of white rice, and cook lots of broccoli and Brussels sprouts as side dishes for healthy eating.
If you're looking for a healthy way to liven up the taste of anti-inflammatory foods, turmeric is an excellent spice to turn to. It can help reduce inflammation related to arthritis and type 2 diabetes. Turmeric contains high levels of curcumin, which has significant anti-inflammatory properties.
You can season lentils and rice with turmeric for a warm, earthy flavor. Additionally, many enjoy it as part of a marinade for chicken or fish. You can sprinkle it on roasted veggies or even use it on your morning omelet. You're also likely to find turmeric supplements at supermarkets and drug stores.
We had to leave you with something sweet on our ultimate list of anti-inflammatory foods. Dark chocolate is another food rich in antioxidants and can help fight inflammation. It can help keep your arteries healthy and clear, lowering your heart attack or stroke risk. Look for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa for the best results. The higher the level of cocoa present in dark chocolate, the more potent anti-inflammatory effects the food will have.
How to Start an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Making significant, sudden changes to your way of eating can be difficult, and we know that it's not realistic to change your entire lifestyle overnight. Instead, focus on making small changes a little bit at a time and incorporating healthy anti-inflammatory foods whenever you can. Over time, it will become a habit, and you'll be selecting anti-inflammatory foods without a second thought.
Follow these tips to start an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Check nutrition labels when food shopping
- Swap out unhealthy cooking oils for olive oil
- Switch out one inflammatory snack a day for berries or nuts
- Slowly transition from red meat to a diet with more chicken and fish
- Go through your pantry and discard inflammatory foods before your next shopping trip
When you make these changes little by little, it won't seem like a big shock to your diet, and you'll be more likely to stick with it in the long run.
How Reducing Inflammation Helps Your Body
Reducing unnecessary inflammation in your body has many benefits. It can help with weight loss and weight management, reduce the unpleasant symptoms of arthritis and diabetes, decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer, and even help ward off depression. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel syndrome will begin to improve, and you'll see other benefits such as increased energy, better sleep, and improved mood. Best of all, you'll simply feel better and have a higher level of overall wellness.
Schedule an Appointment Today
If you suffer from a chronic health condition such as arthritis, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease, chiropractic care may help. At ChiroCare of Florida, we can help you develop a diet plan to manage inflammatory foods and provide other therapies to help manage symptoms. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.