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Top 9 Inflammatory Foods

Posted 8/18/2016 by UHBlog

How do inflammatory foods hurt your body? Ask us.

Top Inflammatory Foods

The sage advice, “You are what you eat,” carries a lot of weight when discussing how inflammatory foods can fuel disease.

“A diet filled with inflammatory foods – those that are chemical laden and high in sugar and saturated fats – can damage a body’s healthy cells and weaken the immune system,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Jamieson-Petonic. “My recommendation is a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. Choosing what we eat – or don’t eat – affects every cell in our body.”

To be clear: not all inflammation is bad. It's part of your body’s immune response, and without it we could not heal.

“But a small red cut that heals over time is entirely different than chronic inflammation, where the immune system mistakenly attacks normal cells," Jamieson-Petonic says. “Prolonged chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and other health concerns.”

Are there certain foods that promote inflammation in your body’s cellular structure? All you have to do is think of the three P’s – processed, packaged and prepared – and put fast foods at the top of the list.

“If my 6-year-old daughter can’t read or pronounce the ingredients listed on a food label, then it won’t go into my grocery cart,” she says.

Foods to Avoid

Here are the nine inflammatory food groups that Jamieson-Petonic recommends you avoid:

  1. Hydrogenated and trans fats. These are found in margarine, shortening, lard and are in any baked, fried or processed products made with them.
  2. Fried foods, such as French fries, onion rings, potato chips, nachos, donuts, etc.
  3. Unrefined sugar, molasses, cane syrup, agave and maple syrup. These are found in sugary soft drinks, sports drinks and sweetened juices.
  4. White bread, white pasta and refined grains. These carbohydrates break down quickly into sugar.
  5. Processed meat. Steer clear of deli meats, bacon, sausage, hotdogs and pepperoni.
  6. Snack foods. The list includes boxed cookies, crackers, potato chips and sweets.
  7. Oils high in omega-6. On this list are corn, sunflower, peanut and soybean oil.
  8. Feedlot-raised meat, which is high in animal fat, hormones and antibiotics.
  9. Excessive use of alcohol. This breaks down into sugar.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

According to Jamieson-Petonic, it’s never too late to lower chronic inflammation caused by poor eating habits.

“The first step is to add lots of delicious whole, fresh foods to your diet,” she says. “Our bodies need specific nutrients to combat inflammation, such as antioxidants, phytochemicals, monounsaturated fats and plant fibers.”

She recommends adding more of these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
  • Fresh fruits, particularly berries, tart cherries and citrus fruits
  • Green and leafy vegetables. Broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale, cabbage cauliflower and collards are great inflammation fighters, she says
  • Lean, grass-fed beef in moderation
  • Low-fat dairy for people who are not lactose intolerant
  • Good oils, such as cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, avocado, safflower and walnut oil
  • Whole grains. For instance, whole wheat bread, brown rice and other unprocessed grains (for people without a gluten allergy)
  • Beans, such as red kidney beans and pinto beans
  • Nuts and seeds, including walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts and pistachios
  • Dark chocolate. Make sure it has a 70 percent or higher cacao count
  • Moderate amount of alcohol. For example, one glass of red wine a day
  • Herbs and spices. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, basil and pepper are several examples

“One easy way to avoid health issues resulting from chronic inflammation is to include foods that are going to have an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies,” Jamieson-Petonic says. “While some of these changes may be challenging to incorporate into your diet initially, they can be quite helpful in reducing inflammation and chronic pain. Along with other factors like enough rest and exercise, they can help improve overall health as well.”

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, M.Ed., RDN, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Jamieson-Petonic or any other healthcare professional online.

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