Inflammation can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. And things like what we eat and drink, how much rest we get, and how crazy our stress levels become can all affect inflammation levels in the body and lead to greater risk for disease. There are many inflammatory foods that weaken our system, and so it's best to minimize them and stick with foods that fight inflammation instead.
We know some of the good guys, such as omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon and walnuts, antioxidants found in fresh fruits and veggies, and fiber found in whole grains, cruciferous vegetables and probiotics, found in Greek yogurt and kombucha. Yet, what are the culprits we should be wary of?
As a certified health coach, I help my clients reduce inflammation with a holistic approach, covering sleeping, eating, exercising and self-care habits, alike. In addition to managing stress, fitting in a sweat session, getting adequate sleep, and simply showing your body more love, choosing a healthy diet filled with anti-inflammatory foods and beverages and reducing intake of highly processed, sugary, fatty and unhealthy picks is essential to feeling healthier overall.
These are nine foods and drinks that can cause inflammation and should be removed from our plates, as often as possible.
1. Baked Goods
Sugary breakfast pastries, muffins, cookies, and grandma's classic dark chocolate brownie recipe all fall into this category. Experts say that consuming baked goods can cause inflammation by spiking blood sugar levels and introducing trans fats into the body. Trans fats, also known on labels as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, can damage blood cells and cannot be metabolized properly by the body. "Trans fats can increase our 'bad' cholesterol, such as LDL, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases," says NYC-based, registered dietician, Helen Pertsovsky, as interviewed over email by Bustle. Limiting packaged goods and sticking to fresh, whole foods is the easiest way to reduce intake.
While some people have Celiac Disease, which prohibits them from eating gluten, many people today have developed intolerances or sensitivities based on how the body feels after consumption. It's common to encounter abdominal pain, nausea, breakouts, and bloating and bowel discomfort, if susceptible. Experts also share that wheat is highly inflammatory, and it can thus lead to an increased risk for disease and can exacerbate the symptoms of chronic, autoimmune diseases. Switch to gluten-free grains, or consume gluten and wheat products in moderation to keep inflammation at bay.
Sugary beverages add extra calories, sodium, and sugar that can lead to greater inflammation. Bubbles in soda also increase bloat, which can lead to discomfort. The main culprit in this drink is sugar, which can lead to greater cravings (for more sugar) during the day, an increased appetite, energy crashes post consumption, and a higher likelihood of contracting illness. A high intake of sugar changes hormonal messages and pathways within our systems to promote inflammation and cortisol, the stress hormone. Swap soda for tea or water to flush out toxins and keep your body hydrated and bloat-free.
Not only does beer dehydrate you, but it can also lead to inflammation in the gut and increase risk of diseases, such as liver disease. Because beer also passes so quickly through the body, it can irritate the intestinal line. Plus, drinking can lead to cravings for processed foods and lower inhibitions, making it easier for you to succumb to the munchies and become even more inflamed.
5. Chinese Takeout
There's no use pretending that Chinese takeout has health benefits. Between fried meats, noodles and heavy sauces, there's too many inflammatory elements at play. However, the main offender is MSG, a property found in Chinese takeout. Experts say that MSG can lead to diseases and enhance the negative symptoms of chronic illnesses. So skip the takeout and whip up a healthy stir fry at home with vegetables, lean meats or tofu and a low-sodium sauce.
While cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium, it can cause inflammation in people who are sensitive to dairy or are lactose-intolerant. It can cause acne and blotchiness in the skin, as well as abdominal discomfort. Casein, a protein found in dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, can have inflammatory properties. However, Greek yogurt may decrease inflammation, due to its probiotic, gut-promoting bacteria strains. It's best to eat dairy that's free of additives and hormones, if at all, and healthy lifestyle coach, Michelle Dooley, shares "I make sure to choose organic and local (when possible)," over email with Bustle.
7. Vegetable Oil
Omega 3's are full of anti-inflammatory properties, but omega 6 fatty acids are major inflammatory offenders. Experts suggest that an excess concentration of omega 6's can be harmful for your help. They are found predominantly in vegetable oils, such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and canola, and can lead to blood clotting and heart disease. Eat more foods and oils with omega 3 fatty acids to balance out the ratio for optimal health and decreased inflammation.
Research shows that tropical fruits may lead to inflammation due to their high sugar content. These include mango, papaya, oranges and bananas, as well. While these fruits are full of fiber, digestive-aiding properties, and potassium, the high fructose content could affect people who are diabetic, and thus should be limited if any blood sugar problems exist.
9. Grain-Fed Meats
Red meat, in excess, can lead to inflammation and higher risk of disease, such as heart and cancer. There are also additives and chemicals found in the substance that the animals fed on, which in turn are bad for our health. If consuming meat, it's best to buy grass-fed and organic versions, as they are more nutritious and actually offer anti-inflammatory benefits from the omega 3 fatty acids.
Eating any of these foods in moderation is fine, depending on what health issues you may or may not have, but if you've been feeling unlike yourself lately with symptoms of indigestion, fatigue, or headaches, it might be good to consider cutting back on some of these potentially inflammatory foods. When paired with sticking with a regular sleep and exercise schedule, limiting stress, focusing on relaxation techniques and enjoying happy moments with friends and family, you may find you feel better in no time.
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