Which foods cause inflammation in the body?

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD 

Eating a healthy diet isn’t just important for slimming down or maintaining a healthy weight.  

The foods you eat can also play a big role in disease development, by either leading to or fighting inflammation.  

But do you know which foods contribute the most to inflammation, and which ones can help prevent it? Read on to learn more about how you can limit pro-inflammatory culprits in your diet and fill up on anti-inflammatory foods. 

Chronic Inflammation and Disease 

Acute inflammation is a normal and necessary bodily response, like the swelling that happens when you stub your toe or get a paper cut. It’s one of the body’s primary ways of responding to and healing injuries. 

But chronic inflammation, marked by a consistent state of low-grade inflammation, isn’t so beneficial. In fact, this type of inflammation has been linked to several chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (123).   

Some of the risk factors for chronic inflammation include smoking, old age, obesity, and of course, diet. Limiting foods that lead to inflammation and increasing your intake of foods that fight inflammation may help you prevent the health issues associated with chronic inflammation (4). 

In addition, an anti-inflammatory diet may help in the treatment of certain conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. 

Foods that Contribute to Inflammation 

Pro-inflammatory foods that can contribute to chronic inflammation include (5678): 

  • Sugary foods and beverages: sodas, cakes, cookies, pastries, candies, juices 

  • Trans fats: margarines, fried fast foods, some packaged cakes and pastries, and foods with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oils on the labels 

  • Alcohol (in excess): beer, wine, sugary alcoholic drinks, liquors 

  • Certain vegetables oils: soybean, corn, safflower, cottonseed, and rice bran oils 

Anti-Inflammatory Foods 

Foods that can help fight inflammation in the body include (9101112): 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds 

  • Herbs and spices: ginger, turmeric, cinnamon 

  • Some fruits: berries, cherries 

  • Whole grains and beans: quinoa, farro, brown rice, lentils, black beans 

  • Vegetables: dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, all of them! 

  • Other foods: dark chocolate, green tea, extra virgin olive oil and olives 

If you are concerned about inflammatory foods in your diet, take small steps to limit the foods on the above list. To cut back on sugary beverages, try fruit-infused or carbonated water instead. In place of vegetable oil, use olive oil for cooking instead. Read the labels on foods you purchase, and avoid those with partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.  

At the same time, aim to increase your fruit and vegetable intake or add more spices to your cooking. Making small changes over time can help you eliminate highly inflammatory foods from your diet, so that you can feel healthy for life! 

Note from Healthy For Life Meals: Our meals are loaded with nutritious foods that can help fight inflammation. Get started with one of our plans today and reap the benefits! 

Stef Keegan