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Nutrition

4 Inflammatory Food Groups to Avoid 

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Photo of pizza

You’ve probably read about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet, a meal plan rich in foods like salmon, walnuts, and blackberries. It’s buzzy for good reason: chronic inflammation can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, and the Arthritis Foundation recommends eating anti-inflammatory foods if you suffer from arthritis. And while it’s helpful to have tools like Advil to help with the minor aches and pains of arthritis, it can also be good idea to cut out (or at least cut back on) foods that can cause inflammation in the first place—especially since those foods often aren’t that healthy to begin with. Here are four categories to avoid.  

photo of doughnuts

Trans fats 

In addition to upping your risk for cardiovascular disease, these nutritional bad guys, commonly found in baked goods (hello, shortening) and packaged snacks, have been linked to increased inflammation. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration ordered food-makers to stop using artificial trans fats by June 2018. Still, because some goods made before that cutoff date might still be in distribution, you should check ingredient lists and steer clear of anything that contains partially hydrogenated oils. If you can’t stop thinking about having a cookie (and who could blame you?), make them at home where you can control the ingredients, like in this recipe that uses tahini paste, oats, and whole-wheat flour. 

woman eating burger

Saturated fats  

Research shows that eating foods high in saturated fats—think: pizza, burgers, or bacon—can bring on inflammation. Like trans fat, these fats are also bad for heart health. Next time you’re craving these comfort foods, try making recipes like this green pizza, which uses part-skim cheese and tons of veggies, and swap meat for ‘shrooms in these mushroom and pecan burgers

photo of baked bread

Refined carbohydrates  

Unlike healthy whole grains, refined carbohydrates are stripped of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But they’re not just ill advised because they’re loaded with empty calories; research shows that processed carbs can cause glucose and insulin levels to fluctuate in such a way that your body’s level of pro-inflammatory cytokines—a protein released by your cells—also spikes. When possible, swap white bread or rice for their whole-grain counterparts, and opt for nutritious whole grains like oatmeal or bulgur. Try making your favorite pasta dishes with whole wheat pasta, and use whole grains to make yummy grain bowls

photo of croissants

Refined sugars 

Like refined carbs, refined sugars may increase the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines in your body. Yet the average woman in the United States consumes 15 teaspoons of added sugar every day. The culprit is found in obvious places, like candy, cakes, cookies, pastries, ice cream, and soda—but it can also lurk in surprising products, like cereals, yogurts, or even whole wheat bread. Be sure to look at ingredient lists and avoid products with undesirable additives such as corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, and anything ending in ose (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose, to name a few). Try these sugar-free dessert recipes next time you need a little something sweet.