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Inflammation Part 3: Inflammatory Foods

By Dr. Renae Norton

  1. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is made from GMO corn 95% of the time, are the two main types of added sugars in the Western diet. They both cause inflammation, but the HFCS is the most damaging. (link to sugar sadness) (Try coconut crystals, raw honey and green leaf stevia instead.) Added sugars are found in almost all processed foods as well as the more obvious ones such as candy, soda, ice cream, and pastries. Most catsup has sugar in it.

A study of 217 people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which is a common condition resulting from inflammation, found that sugar-sweetened soda and desserts were the most frequently reported foods to worsen RA symptoms. Likewise, in a study of 1,209 adults ages 20–30, those who drank fructose-sweetened beverages 5 times per week or more were 3 times likelier to have arthritis than those who consumed few to no fructose-sweetened drinks.

  1. Trans Fats such as Canola oil, raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol and make it more likely that you end up with inflammation. They also lower HDL “good” cholesterol. (Read my Fats article for a discussion of the good versus the bad trans fat.) In general stay away from any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

    Trans-fat is not all bad.  In fact, trans fat that is good for you occurs naturally in 100% grass/fed meat and dairy products.  In other words when the animal is raised exclusively on organic pasture, the trans-fat is good for you. If it is an industrially raised cow or chicken steer clear as it has been raised on GMO grains that have been sprayed with Glyphosate. (GMO article)

    Conversely, plant-based diets that exclude red meat have been shown to improve arthritis symptoms. I am personally not a fan of strictly plant based diets because we can only get conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from grass-fed red meat. CLA is critical for the formation of good bones. 

Foods With the Bad Trans-Fat

  1. Fried Foods
    Fried foods — like french fries, mozzarella sticks, and fish sticks — are usually high in trans fats especially if they are sold in fast food establishments.  Eat them at your own risk.  Scratch that. Don’t eat them at all.
  2. Margarine
    Margarine is sometimes marketed as a healthier alternative to butter, but some kinds of margarine actually contain up to two grams of trans fat per tablespoon. Grass-fed raw butter is actually incredibly good for you, but it is hard to come by.  If you cannot get it raw, at least make sure that your butter is 100% grass-fed.
  3. Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer
    It’s possible that your daily dose of caffeine has also been giving you a daily dose of trans fats. Many non-dairy coffee creamers use oils that contain trans fats. Use 100% grass-fed full fat milk or unsweetened almond milk instead.
  4. Conventional Meat & Dairy
    Trans-fat that is good for you occurs naturally in meat and dairy products, so that when the animal is raised exclusively on organic pasture, the trans-fat is good for you. If it is an industrially raised cow or chicken steer clear as it has been raised on GMO grains that have been sprayed with Glyphosate. (GMO article)

 

  1. Processed and red meats 

Research links red and processed meat to inflammation. I believe that this is not the case with grass-fed meat and there is finally some research to back up this observation. That said, diets heavy in conventional processed and red meats demonstrate high levels of inflammatory markers like interleukin-6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), and homocysteine. Most of this research has been done on sick animals so it is hard to interpret the findings.

Conversely, plant-based diets that exclude red meat have been shown to improve arthritis symptoms. I am personally not a fan of strictly plant based diets because we can only get conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from grass-fed red meat. CLA is critical for the formation of good bones. I think the solution is 100% grass-fed animal protein, preferably organic.

 

  1. Gluten-containing foods

Gluten is a group of proteins in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Some research links it to increased inflammation and suggests that going gluten-free may ease arthritis symptoms. I believe that it is primarily US wheat that is at issue.  It has been hyper-hybridized to leave only the starch, which is more fattening and raises blood sugar levels and is thus more inflammatory.  It has also been sprayed with Glyphosate which is an obesogen, autogen, allergen and carcinogen all of which can cause inflammation.

Some people are actually allergic to wheat, which is called Celiac disease.  In such cases they are at a greater risk of developing inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Likewise, those with autoimmune diseases like RA have a significantly higher prevalence of celiac disease than the general population, so there is definitely a connection.

Eating better wheat seems to be the key, as people in Europe do not suffer from celiac or gluten intolerance as we do here in the polluted USA. Their wheat is from Einkorn flower which is very different from US flour and much healthier. Check out Jovial Foods for healthy pasta and flour.

 

  1. Highly processed foods

Highly processed foods, especially fast food, breakfast cereal, and baked goods are typically high in refined grains, added sugar, preservatives, hydrogenated/damaged oils and other potentially inflammatory ingredients. It is easy to find all of these in the same food item.  Donuts are a really good example. Just say no to the office donut. Really. Put it down and eat some prunes or an apple.

 Blood sugar is also on the table, no pun intended.  In a study of  56 people with rheumatoid arthritis, those who ate higher amounts of ultra-processed foods showed increased heart disease risk factors, including higher levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), a long-term marker of poor blood sugar control. As such, processed foods may worsen your overall health and increase your risk of  inflammatory diseases like diabetes.

 

  1. Alcohol 

There is research that red wine is good for you primarily because of the resveratrol.  I recommend supplementing with Resveratrol as the way to go instead of trying to drink enough red wine to get the benefit.  Resveratrol is one of my favorite age reversing supplements. In general alcohol has a very definite down-side. First, it can worsen arthritis symptoms, such that anyone with inflammatory arthritis should restrict or avoid it altogether. Secondly, it has been shown to be bad for the brain in general.  In addition, studies have also shown that alcohol intake may increase the frequency and severity of an extremely painful inflammatory condition called gout.

 

  1. Certain Vegetable Oils 

Fats are generally good for us as long as they are in their natural state.  Coconut oil is a health food as far as I am concerned.  I put a tablespoon of it in my tea or coffee every morning. (My article on fats) That said diets high in omega 6 fats, even though they are good for us are inflammatory if we eat too much or too many of them.  Ideally, we should eat a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 (from dairy and red meat) to omega 3 (from fish and flax) fats. We don’t. We eat way more omega 6 than omega 3 which causes inflammation.

Reducing your intake of foods high in omega-6 fats, such as vegetable oils, especially the hydrogenated oils,  while increasing your intake of omega-3-rich foods like fatty fish may improve the symptoms of many inflammatory conditions.  Not to brag, but my ratio is usually close to the 1:1 for omega 6 to 3.  I believe it is because I supplement with fish oil and krill oil.

 

  1. Foods high in table salt 

You do not necessarily have to cut back on salt.  Salt is not the problem.  The foods containing the salt are the problem.  First of all they no longer contain real salt. They contain a chemical with other added chemicals that taste like salt, but are really just chemicals.  Sea salt, on the other hand, is actually a food that comes from the sea beds of salty waters.  Himalayan sea salt is in fact good for you.

But that pizza that you ordered is loaded with the kind of salt that causes inflammation. Processed foods are almost always high in the wrong version of salt, so eat whole foods and season away as much as you like with real sea salt.

 

  1. Foods high in AGEs (Seriously, that is the name)

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are molecules created through reactions between sugars and proteins or fats. They naturally exist in uncooked animal foods and are formed through certain cooking methods as when foods are fried, roasted, grilled, seared, or broiled. The foods most likely to create AGEs include bacon, pan-fried or grilled steak, roasted or fried chicken, broiled hot dogs, french fries, American cheese, margarine, and mayonnaise.

When AGEs accumulate in high amounts in your body, oxidative stress and inflammation may occur. Oxidative stress and AGE formation are tied to disease progression particularly in people with arthritis.  The solution is to replace high AGEs foods with nutritious, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and fish. Read on.

Stay tuned for part 4 of this 4 part series next Friday where I talk about what to eat and give you some great recipe ideas.

In case you missed part two click on the link below.

Inflammation Part 2: Six Warning Signs of Silent Inflammation

 

Interested in Wellness Coaching or Nutritional Guidance?

Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.

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