These Inflammation-Causing Foods Should Be Avoided at All Costs

You’ve heard of inflammation — your body’s natural response to protect you and repair damaged tissue after you’re hurt. And this process is vital, as without it, you’d be more likely to die of an infected wound. Inflammation has saved your life on many occasions without you even knowing it, says Live Science.

Trouble arises, however, when you start dealing with chronic inflammation. This type can persist through your entire life and is linked to ailments like heart disease and diabetes. And if you’re eating the following inflammatory foods, you could be unknowingly starting a war in your body.

1. Dairy

Cheese plate served with wine, jam and honey

Step away from the cheese plate. |

Sorry, cheese and ice cream lovers, but dairy can cause a variety of issues related to inflammation. As mindbodygreen notes, dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods we eat.

It’s the proteins and sugar in dairy that are really to blame for its bad rap. If you’re lactose intolerant, then consuming this sugar found in milk is sure to give you problems. Even if lactose isn’t your issue, many people respond poorly to casein and whey, two proteins found in dairy products. And we haven’t even mentioned the growth hormones and antibiotics used on cows for milk production, but these can also cause inflammation.

Next: We know you love pasta, but avoid this type of grain. 

2. Refined grains

fresh bow pasta top view with basil and cheese

Go for whole wheat pasta instead. |

There’s a reason your doctor has told you to stick with whole grains when possible. Healthline explains white breads, pastas, and rice have all the nutrients and fibrous parts removed. This means refined grains have very little fiber, vitamins, or minerals. And because of that lack of fiber, they’re digested much quicker than their whole-wheat counterparts. This causes rapid blood sugar spikes during mealtime, which ultimately can lead to chronic inflammation and a wealth of diseases, like diabetes.

Next: You’ll want to think twice before reaching for that Diet Coke. 

3. Diet foods with artificial sweeteners

Container holding packets of artificial sweetener.

Not everything approved by the FDA is good for you. |

Just because it’s approved by the FDA doesn’t necessarily mean you should be eating it. Artificial sweeteners are in all your favorite diet products, but some evidence suggests you might be better off consuming actual sugar. The Arthritis Foundation says if you already have an autoimmune condition, then it may have an impact on your health. Even if you’re just sensitive to artificial sweeteners, eating them may trigger an inflammatory response if your body doesn’t think they belong.

Next: You’ll want to limit how much of these you’re eating daily. 

4. Fried foods

Fried chicken tenders.

Stay away from the fried foods. |

You know by now that eating anything deep fried isn’t doing your waistline any favors, but it’s also deeply hurting the inside of your body, too. Fried foods contain loads of saturated fat, which the journal Advances in Nutrition notes can lead to an inflammatory response. And Mother Nature Network says frying foods creates a neurotoxin chemical that also causes issues. Do yourself a favor and bake your foods instead of allowing them to hit that hot oil.

Next: It’s time to rethink what you’re putting on your sandwich. 

5. Processed meats

meat sandwich

Go for a veggie sandwich next time. | Rez-art/iStock/Getty Image

We know bacon is a favorite food for many, and you probably haven’t considered how your daily ham sandwich is affecting your health, but both of these meats are highly inflammatory. In fact, any meat that’s been processed and packaged should be avoided like the plague.

NHS Choices notes researchers believe nitrites, the preservatives in these meats, are what triggers an inflammatory response. And there was even a study performed on 1,000 adults, about half of whom had asthma, to see how a diet rich in processed meats affected their condition. The study found eating these products four times a week worsened symptoms.

Next: Fan of happy hour? Maybe you shouldn’t be. 

6. Alcohol

Alcoholic Whiskey Bourbon in a Glass with Ice

There’s nothing wrong with cutting back on your alcohol consumption. |

Sorry — we know you’ve heard that your glass of red wine at dinner is helping your heart, but this may not really be the case. While an alcoholic beverage here and there isn’t such a big deal, going out drinking on a consistent basis can cause a serious inflammatory response and increase your risk of developing disease. An article from the World Journal of Gastroenterology explains chronic alcohol consumption impairs how well your gut and livers works, thus leading to inflammation and organ damage.

Next: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — stay away from these foods.  

7. Sugar-laden desserts

Glazed donuts

It’s time to learn how to control your cravings. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

You probably know this by now, but your sweet tooth may be increasing your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and even arthritis. Healthline notes the types of sugar you’re most likely eating too much of are table sugar, known as sucrose, and high-fructose corn syrup.

One study found those who consumed soft drinks sweetened with sucrose were producing higher levels of uric acid in their body, which drives inflammation. And another study suggests sugar intake has a strong connection with the development of breast cancer due to its inflammatory properties.

Next: Ditch this classic movie theater snack. 

8. Movie theater popcorn

movie theater seats

There’s more saturated fat in that popcorn than we’d like to admit. | Thinkstock

That small bag of movie theater popcorn may seem innocent, but it’s actually full of saturated and trans fats that can cause a huge inflammatory response. The New York Times notes most theaters pop their corn in hydrogenated coconut oil, and that “butter” you can add on top is just more partially-hydrogenated oil.

When you hear the word “hydrogenated” beware that this means there are trans fats lurking in your food. And trans fats are a disaster for your body, as they cause a significant amount of systematic inflammation.

Next: Your favorite foods probably have this in them. 

9. Artificial coloring

Coloful Fruit Cereal Loops

The fruit in this cereal isn’t real–kind of like the allusion that it could keep you full. |

You probably didn’t know artificial food dyes can make you sick, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind. As one study says, artificial dyes are made from petroleum, and they’re cheaper and last longer than dyes made naturally. The problem here is these dyes can bind with body proteins and create inflammation. This can then lead to the development of autoimmune disorders or even behavioral problems.

Next: You probably use this food all the time when you cook. 

10. Vegetable oil


Hold off on all the oil. |

Omega-3 fatty acids have been making waves in the health world for their benefits. On the other side of the coin, omega-6s are a major cause of inflammation. Shape notes vegetable oils like soy, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, and safflower are all rich sources of omega-6 fatty acids. If you’re not eating enough omega-3-rich foods like fish, flaxseeds, or walnuts to offset your omega-6 consumption, you could have some serious inflammatory problems. Opt for extra virgin olive oil when you can.

Next: Your favorite add-ons may actually cause inflammation. 

11. Seasoning mixes

taco seasoning

Taco seasoning is extremely high in sodium. |

Your spice cabinet seems innocent, but Shape says your seasonings can actually trigger an inflammatory response. So, what’s the deal with your spices? Many of the mixes are incredibly high in sodium (we’re looking at you, taco seasoning). And a high sodium to potassium ratio in your diet can trigger inflammation and put your heart at risk. Aim to use fresh or dried herbs without the salt overdose whenever possible.

Next: This soy product is gaining popularity, but is it good for you?  

12. Seitan

Mapo Tofu in a white plate

Go for tofu when you have the chance. |

Vegans and vegetarians everywhere have probably told you about the wonders of seitan. While it can mimic the taste and texture of meat, it’s also made entirely from gluten. Many people can eat gluten-heavy foods without noticing any ill effects. But for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, seitan can cause a serious inflammatory response, Care2 explains. You might be better off going with tofu if you’re looking for a meat substitute.

Next: This tasty snack can actually cause inflammation. 

13. Peanuts

Jar of peanut butter with nuts. On wooden texture.

There’s a surprising way peanuts can cause inflammation. |

We’re hoping by now you know not to be deceived by the name of the peanut, as it’s not a nut at all. It’s a legume rich in protein that make it a healthful snacking option for many to reach for. While those with an allergy certainly can’t eat peanuts, there’s another issue that can cause inflammation — naturally occurring fungi found on the legume. Dr. Becky Campbell tells mindbodygreen that in her experience, exposure to this mold has contributed to higher levels of inflammation.

Next: You may need to limit your consumption of this food. 

14. Steak

Steak with blue cheese sauce served with asparagus.

Be selective about your steak. |

Research continually shows different data concerning the health effects of eating red meat. While we know too much of anything is never good, the Independent explains a new study suggests eating unprocessed red meat in large quantities increases the risk of developing an inflammatory bowel condition. The evidence wasn’t conclusive, as those used in the sample also tended to smoke more, eat little fiber, and exercise less. But even so, you’ll want to at least eat grass-fed beef over grain-fed to make sure you’re not causing an inflammatory response in your digestive system.

Next: Food isn’t all you should be concerned about. 

Here’s what you can do to reduce inflammation

young woman enjoying sunny morning

Having a good night’s sleep can make a huge difference in your mood. |

Aside from avoiding these foods, you can make lifestyle changes to see some anti-inflammatory benefits. Nutritionist Kellyann Petrucci tells mindbodygreen you should stay away from antibiotics, antacids, and certain over-the-counter pain relievers. These can be disruptive to your gut, which can trigger inflammation through your whole body.

You should also, of course, get your body moving regularly, sleep for at least seven hours a night, and get plenty of sunlight for much-needed vitamin D.

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