Five Foods That Cause Inflammation (And How to Avoid Them)

You may not realize it, but the foods you eat can have a big impact on your body’s inflammation levels. Inflammation is a natural process that helps the body heal from injuries and fight off foreign invaders, but when it’s constantly activated, it can lead to a host of problems like digestive issues, joint pain, fatigue, and even depression.

Unfortunately, many of the foods we commonly eat are pro-inflammatory. To make matters worse, they’re often the foods we crave the most: sugary snacks, starchy carbs, greasyFast foods. If you’re struggling with inflammation, it might be time to take a closer look at your diet. Here are five common foods that can cause inflammation, and some tips on how to avoid them.

1. Sugar

Sugar is everywhere—and it’s not just in the obvious places like candy and cake. It’s also hidden in savory foods like salad dressings, breads, sauces, and soups. And while a little sugar here and there probably won’t do much harm, eating too much of it can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major contributor to inflammation.

To avoid eating too much sugar, start by cutting out sweetened drinks like soda and fruit juice. You should also be careful about processed foods like cookies, cakes, and pastries that contain high levels of sugar. And watch out for “healthy” snacks like granola bars and fruit leathers that are actually packed with added sugars.

2. Refined Carbs

Like sugar, refined carbs can cause inflammation by promoting insulin resistance. Refined carbs are found in white breads, pastas, pastry flour–basically anything made with bleached flour. They’re also often hiding in seemingly healthy foods like trail mix (which usually contains more candy than nuts), energy bars, and granola cereals.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, take a close look at the ingredients list on all the products you buy. If wheat flour or any other type of bleached flour is one of the first few ingredients listed, put it back on the shelf—chances are it’s high in refined carbs. Instead, opt for whole-wheat breads and pastas or try alternative grains like quinoa or buckwheat groats.

3. Trans Fats

Trans fats are man-made fats that have been shown to increase inflammation throughout the body. They’re commonly found in fast food and packaged snacks like microwave popcorn and frozen pizzas. But trans fats can also be hiding in “healthy” restaurants dishes like salmon filet with lemon butter sauce (even though salmon is naturally high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids). To avoid trans fats when dining out, always ask your waiter or waitress about how menu items are prepared. Chances are if a dish contains trans fats, they’ll know about it.  And when you’re grocery shopping, check the ingredient list for “partially hydrogenated oils”— if you see those words, put the product back on the shelf.  

4. Omega – 6 Fatty Acids 

While omega – 6 fatty acids are essential for good health, most Americans consume far more of them than they need. That ‘s because these oils — which are found in vegetable oils, grains, soy products, poultry, eggs, and nuts —are used in everything from cooking oil to salad dressings to processed snack foods. Excess omega – 6 fatty acids have been linked with inflammation, so if you want to keep your levels in check, cut back on processed foods and vegetable oils. Instead, cook with olive oil or coconut oil and get your omega – 6 fatty acids from natural sources like avocados, walnuts, and flaxseeds. 

5. Alcohol 

Drinking alcohol has been shown to increase inflammation throughout the body. So if you’re struggling with inflammatory conditions like arthritis or Crohn’s disease, you might want to consider cutting back on your alcohol intake. If you do drink, stick to red wine — studies have shown that it contains antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation. 


Certain foods can cause inflammation — but that doesn’t mean you have to give up all your favorite things. Just be mindful of how much sugar, refined carbs, trans fats, omega – 6 fatty acids, and alcohol you’re consuming. And when in doubt, always opt for whole Foods over processed ones. Your body will thank you for it!

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