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Acute, chronic, or both types of inflammation—almost everyone has had some. Put simply, it’s the body’s reaction to an injury or bacterial infection, manifested as pain, redness, swelling, heat, and other symptoms. Inflammation is a necessary component of your body’s defensive system, on the one hand. In order to initiate the healing process, your immune system dispatches inflammatory cells to the site of an acute injury or bacterial infection.

However, it may indicate chronic inflammation if your body starts to constantly send out these signals when you’re not injured or infected.

Health problems including diabetes and cardiovascular disease are strongly associated with chronic inflammation, which can last for months or even years.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by a variety of things, including stress, smoking, pre-existing conditions, strong alcohol use, and poor nutrition.

However, in terms of your nutrition, which specific eating patterns might contribute to increased inflammation? We studied the literature and had a conversation with Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, to get an answer to that question.

Continue reading to find out 10 of the worst eating habits that cause inflammation, and see 9 ‘Healthy’ Foods That Have More Sugar Than You Might Think for more advice on healthy eating.

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1 You’re eating too much added sugar.

Manaker claims that consuming a lot of meals high in sugar might exacerbate inflammation.

“Added sugars, particularly those found in processed foods and beverages, have been strongly linked to inflammation, and these sugars can increase levels of inflammatory messengers called cytokines,” according to her.

Furthermore highlighting the link between diets heavy in processed sugar and inflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis is a paper published in Frontiers in Immunology.

2 You aren’t consuming enough produce.

An overabundance of inflammation may indicate that you should increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

“The incorporation of fruits and vegetables into one’s diet is a powerful strategy to combat inflammation because these food groups are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can significantly reduce inflammatory markers in the body,” Manaker said. “If you aren’t eating enough produce consistently, you may be missing out on anti-inflammatory benefits.”

Studies support this. Eating more produce can boost immune cells in addition to lowering inflammatory indicators, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

3 You’re not eating enough seafood.

“Seafood, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout, is highly beneficial in an anti-inflammatory diet,” Manaker states. “These types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, which have been established to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.”

Manaker continues, “For generally healthy people, the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating at least 8 ounces of seafood a week.”

It’s also vital to remember that eating fried fish or shellfish can have the opposite effect and exacerbate inflammation, so it’s better to stick to baked or grilled options.

4 You’re eating too much fast food.

Since fast food is typically highly processed and fried, Manaker advises reducing your intake if your goal is to reduce inflammation.

“A study published in the journal Cell suggests that a diet heavy in fast-food-type choices triggers an inflammatory response and can even cause damage to your immune system,” Manaker states.

“It may be a better choice to pack your own lunch instead of downing a supersized meal,” remarks Manaker, “for a more anti-inflammatory meal.”

5 You are consuming more processed meat than fresh meat.

“Processed meats—think bacon, sausage, and lunchmeats—contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs), a component that may cause inflammation in the body,” Manaker explains.
She further states that “AGEs are formed when reducing sugars react with proteins under high heat, and these compounds can make food taste great, but may not be great for our overall health.”

Processed meats are a convenient alternative if you’re searching for something quick and inexpensive that tastes delicious and lasts longer than real meat, but if you’re trying to minimize inflammation, you should restrict your intake. Alternatively, you can choose to consume just fish or vegetarian proteins like tempeh or tofu and completely eliminate the meat product.

6 You’ve been using a lot of artificial sweeteners.

This one can be a little confusing since while excess added sugar consumption can exacerbate inflammation, other sugar substitutes, such as artificial sweeteners, have also been connected to inflammatory reactions.

“In a study published in Nature, results show that consuming artificial sweeteners can change the composition of the bacteria found in the gut,” Manaker explains. “Specifically, the amount of ‘good bacteria’ that help release anti-inflammatory compounds can be reduced.”

“If you must have some sweetness, try some 100% pure maple syrup from Canada,” Manaker continues. This syrup has an anti-inflammatory impact on the body because it includes a special chemical called quebecol.”

7 You’re still cooking with margarine.

You might wish to give up using margarine for cooking if you still do. Trans fats, which are known to induce systemic inflammation, are included in many varieties of margarine. Moreover, even if some are now available without trans fats in supermarkets, it’s crucial to check the labels.

According to a research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, inflammation is strongly correlated with trans fats in women who are either premenopausal or postmenopausal. This study discovered that the inflammatory effects of trans fats applied to all BMI levels, even if there was an enhanced risk factor for women with greater BMI.

8 You’re eating white bread.

Consuming white bread and other highly processed carbs on a regular basis can also result in a number of unfavorable health problems. Refined sugar and processed carbs may raise our risk of systemic inflammation, according a research published in Mediators of Inflammation.

This is due to the fact that eating carbohydrates with more added sugar causes our blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. Our bodies react to these carbohydrates by processing them, which causes inflammation.

9 You’re eating late at night.

Sometimes timing is just as important as what you’re consuming. You can feel more inflammatory if you frequently eat late or snack just before bed.

A study that was published in PLOS One discovered a link between higher levels of inflammation and consuming bigger meals in the evening. Additionally, it was shown that consuming more calories after 5 p.m. raises our levels of CRP, a natural indicator of inflammation and other chronic disorders.

10 You’re eating too much red meat.

As we’ve covered, processed meats have large concentrations of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs); sadly, unprocessed red meat also contains AGEs.

One food type with the greatest quantities of AGEs is red meat, and consuming too much AGEs has been related to inflammation in the body. Cooking techniques have been found to have a direct impact on an item’s AGE content; grilling, broiling, and pan-frying are among the techniques that have been associated with higher AGE levels. These techniques of cooking meat, especially red meat, may cause inflammation.


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