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Foods That Cause Inflammation

They say a slight amount of inflammation is good for the body. However, based on the situation and severity of the inflammation, it can even turn out to be bad for the health. On one hand, inflammation can help our body defend itself from disease and stimulate natural health.

While on the other hand, prolonged and chronic inflammation is associated with an increased risk of ill health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.(1, 2, 3)

Surprisingly our diet can seriously impact inflammation in our body. In this article, we will take a look at some foods that can cause inflammation.

Foods That Cause Inflammation 

Margarine, Fast Foods, Cakes, And Pasteries: The Culprit Being Artificial Trans Fat

Artificial trans fats are known to be the unhealthiest fats that can seriously damage your health. These fats are created by the addition of hydrogen to unsaturated fats.

Most kinds of margarine have trans fats, and they are generally added to various processed foods to extend shelf life.

Unlike naturally occurring trans fats found in meat and dairy, artificial trans fats have known to cause inflammation and also increase the risk of developing diseases.(4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)

Trans fats lower the good or HDL cholesterol and might also impair the function of the endothelial cells lining present in our arteries, which ultimately could be a risk factor for heart disease.(13)

Eating artificial trans fats is known to be associated with high levels of inflammatory markers like CRP or C-reactive protein.

Apart from margarine, some other foods that are high in trans fats include fried fast foods, vegetable shortenings, packaged cakes, cookies, some pastries, and most processed foods.

Chocolate, Soft Drinks, Certain Cereals: Added Sugar And High-Fructose Corn Syrup Being Culprits

Sucrose or table sugar and high fructose corn syrup or HFCS are the two primary types of added sugar, especially in the Western diet. Sugar comprises 50% glucose and 50% fructose,  while HFCS comprises about 45% glucose and 55% fructose.

Added sugars are harmful because they can increase inflammation in the body, which can ultimately result in various diseases.

In a random clinical trial, where participants drank regular soda, milk, diet soda, or water; it was found that only those who too regular soda had increased uric acid levels, and this drives inflammation and insulin resistance.(14)

Though consuming small amounts of fructose in vegetables and fruits is okay, intaking large amounts of fructose from added sugar can harm your health and can result in obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, cancer, fatty liver disease, and chronic kidney disease.

Researchers have found that fructose can lead to inflammation within the endothelial cells lining our blood vessels, and this can be one of the major risk factors for heart disease.(15)

Foods like candy, soft drinks, chocolates, cookies, cakes, sweet pastries, and specific types of cereals are some foods that are high in added sugar and can cause inflammation.

Mayonnaise, Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil, Peanut Oil: Omega-6 Fatty Acids Being The Culprit!

Some foods like mayonnaise, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and peanut oil are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. These omega-6 fatty acids are actually the fats used by our bodies for energy. Our body requires these omega-6 fatty acids for normal growth and they even contribute to the good kind of inflammation in our body that helps to heal us.

However, research suggests that a healthy balance of omega-6 fatty acids is required in our bodies.(16) Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, salmon, and flaxseeds help to achieve that balance.

Vegetable and Seed Oil: High Content Of Omega-6 Fatty Acid Being The Culprit!

Vegetables and seed oils have been used in cooking and are also major ingredients in various processed foods. It is believed by some scientists that some vegetable oils like soybean oil can promote inflammation. This is because of the high content of Omega-6 fatty acids found in these oils.(17) Though a specific amount of dietary omega-6 fatty acids are required, the typical Western diet offers far more than people require.

Doctors recommend eating more omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods like fatty fish to maintain a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and also to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of Omega-3 fats.

There is a lack of evidence that intaking a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation in humans can increase inflammation.

Controlled studies have shown that linoleic acid or the most common dietary omega-6 fatty acid, does not have any impact on inflammatory markers.(18, 19) However, more research is required before coming to any conclusion.

Bread, Candy, Pasta, All Processed Foods With Added Sugar: Refined Carbohydrates Being Culprit!

Consuming refined carbohydrates might drive inflammation. Most of their fiber content is removed from refined carbohydrates. Fiber enhances the feeling of fullness, improves the control over blood sugar, and feeds the good bacteria in the gut.

It has been suggested by researchers that refined carbohydrates found in modern diets might enhance the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that in turn can raise your risk of inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.(20, 21)

Refined carbohydrates contain a higher glycemic index (GI) when compared with unprocessed ones. High glycemic index foods increase blood sugar levels more rapidly than low glycemic index foods.

It was found from a study that elderly people who reported the highest intake of foods with high glycemic index were 2.9 times more likely to die due to an inflammatory disease, such as COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.(22)

It was examined from a controlled study, young, and healthy men who consumed 50 grams of refined carbohydrates (from white bread) experienced higher levels of blood sugar and an increase in the levels of a specific inflammatory marker.(23)

Refined carbohydrates are present in bread, candy, pastries, pasta, cookies, cereals, some cereals, sugary soft drinks, and all sorts of processed foods that have added sugar or flour.

Processed Meat: Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) Being The Culprit!

Eating an excess of processed meat is linked with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stomach cancer and colon cancer. Sausage, ham, beef jerky, smoked meat, and bacon are some common types of processed meat.

These processed meats comprise more advanced glycation end products or AGEs than many other types of meat. AGEs are formed while cooking meats.

It is known that AGEs can cause inflammation.(24, 25)

Artificial Sweeteners Can Be A Culprit!

Though FDA approves artificial sweeteners as relatively safe, most of the ones are sweet-tasting synthetic chemical compounds, such as saccharine and aspartame. These can be culprits for the appearance of inflammation in the body. So, any food product that has these synthetic chemical compounds, must be avoided.

Excessive Alcohol Can Be A Major Culprit!

Moderate consumption of alcohol provides some sort of health benefits. However, excessive alcohol can result in serious problems.

A study found that the levels of inflammatory marker CRP increased in individuals who took more alcohol. Their CRP levels increased the more they consumed alcohol.(26)

Those who drink heavily might develop a condition called “leaky gut”, which can drive widespread inflammation and result in organ damage.

So, it is essential to limit alcohol intake and avoid drinking excessive alcohol. Two standard drinks a day is fine.

Pay Attention To What You Eat!

Some inflammation could be hard to prevent. However, you can control many of the inflammations with your diet. You can minimize inflammation by minimizing your consumption of the above-mentioned foods that cause inflammation or that can trigger it. Always pay attention to what you eat and stay healthy.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 7, 2022

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