Chronic inflammation of our bodies’ cells, tissues and organs has been linked by scientific studies to risks for illnesses like heart disease and cancer. According to statistics from the World Health Organization, about 12.9 million people worldwide died from some form of cardiovascular disease in 2014. Cancer causes eight million deaths per year, on average. Some causes of inflammation in the body are beyond our control. But one factor in reducing inflammation is completely within our control: the food we eat. The diet we choose on a daily basis can either balance the pro- and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body, or create a disastrous imbalance.
Today should be the first day that you not only become aware of the effects of inflammation-causing foods and reduce your consumption of them, but also start incorporating more natural anti-inflammatory foods in your life. Here are the top ten foods that can lead to inflammatory diseases:
Sugar in high amounts has been conclusively shown to cause not only tooth decay but also an increased risk of obesity, inflammation and chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Sugar is a mainstay of the American and international commercial food manufacturing industry, featuring heavily in soft drinks, candy, baked goods, sauces and more. In fact, one can of Coca-Cola, perhaps the world’s most popular beverage, has the equivalent of 10 sugar cubes! On commercial packaging “sugar” might be called by several scientific names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, sorghum syrup and sucrose and more. Instead of sugar-filled drinks (including commercial juices), try water with infusions.
2. Trans fats
Trans fatty acids wreak havoc on a person’s cholesterol levels and have been shown to cause both obesity and insulin resistance – a sure path toward diabetes. You can find trans-fats all over the map of modern processed, commercial food: fried foods, fast food, commercially baked goods and anything made with partially hydrogenated oil, margarine and/or vegetable shortening. Make sure to check the ingredients of every manufactured food item you buy and make sure that partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening are not used.
3. Dairy products
Humans were not designed to drink cow’s milk. Simple as that. Approximately 60% of the world’s population cannot digest milk. Allergic reactions to milk include inflammation, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne, hives and breathing difficulties. While it’s easy to identify and avoid dairy products like butter and cheese, many foods have hidden dairy content, including breads, cookies, crackers, cakes, cream sauces and boxed cereals. Be vigilant about checking the ingredients of your food. If you must eat dairy, opt for unsweetened Greek yogurt, or non-dairy kefir. Their lactose and protein content are already broken down by health bacteria and will not inflame the stomach.
4. Commercial meat
Cows that are slaughtered for industrial meat production are fed grains like soy beans and corn, foods that are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids but low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. In order to produce more financial profits, these animals are also unnaturally injected with hormones and fed antibiotics. At the end of the line, the consumer receives a toxic piece of meat. Avoid this meat and instead, eat organic, grass-fed meat from a local grower.
Ongoing, high consumption of alcohol has been found to cause inflammation of the esophagus, larynx (voice box) and liver. If you must drink alcohol, keep it to a minimum and develop a preference for red wine.
6. Refined grains
Grains developed and used by the giant food crop industry are devoid of fiber and vitamin B in comparison to the grains our ancestors ate, which were unrefined and contained bran, germ and the aleurone layer. Modern grains have the nutritional value of sugar – empty calories. When digested in our bodies, they have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed grains and can cause inflammation. Refined grains are in a countless number of processed foods but also sold as white rice, white flour, white bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits and pastries. Commercial, boxed cereals are refined grains with substantial amounts of added sugar and flavoring. Buy whole grains, but beware: because there is no internationally accepted definition for the word “whole grain” even such a claim might not be delivering you a 100% intact grain product.
7. Artificial additives
Popular additives found in tons of commercially manufactured foods like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) have been studied as causes of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Read the labels of your purchased foods carefully and avoid these toxic chemicals.