If your body were a forest, inflammatory foods would be the sparks that start small fires—which later lead to a slow, destructive burn that destroys the entire system.
Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but you get the picture.
Inflammation is a scary process that is linked to nearly every chronic disease. While you may know how important it is to fill your diet with anti-inflammatory foods like antioxidant-rich blueberries and colorful spices, it’s equally critical to avoid the foods that can promote inflammation.
These five unhealthy inflammatory foods are a great place to start.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Canned Soup and Deli Meat
Soup can be an incredibly nutrient-rich part of your diet, but the canned kind is often boiling over with excess salt. Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, and research has shown an association between sodium, high blood pressure, and inflammation. Make your own delicious soups at home, instead. Or look for low-sodium versions, some of which may be found in the freezer section.
Other foods filled with sodium? Cured meats like deli turkey (which also contain other potentially inflammatory compounds like nitrates and AGEs…more on that later) and (sorry) potato chips.
Cookies, Cupcakes, and Bread
Sugar is an inflammatory nightmare. Studies have found eating sugary foods and beverages increases markers of inflammation in the blood. So, sweets that contain tons of the added white stuff are a bad idea. (You don’t have to give them up entirely, they should just be assigned to the conscious indulgence part of your diet rather than treated like a regular food group.)
RELATED: 4 Reasons You Have Sugar Cravings
And white flour in general is a bad guy, since its high glycemic index means it essentially turns to sugar in your mouth. Research shows that foods with a high glycemic index can cause a decrease in levels of antioxidants in the blood, meaning you’ll have less defenders against free radicals, the perpetrators of inflammation.
French fries are sooo good, but unfortunately when foods are deep fried, compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) form, and those are not good for your health. Studies like this one have shown diets that are lower in AGEs are associated with lower inflammation markers.
Some fried foods are also fried in partially hydrogenated oils, AKA trans fats, which are major inflammation promoters. Thankfully, many companies stopped using them when the health risks became apparent. Still, watch out for the term on food labels (or just avoid processed foods altogether, which is where they tend to lurk).
The Bottom Line on Inflammatory Foods
Avoid foods that contain trans fat, high amounts of sodium, added sugar, nitrates, and preservatives to help keep your body inflammation-free and prevent chronic disease. Now, who wants to sip on an Antioxidant Smoothie?