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Last week, we laid the foundation for understanding the importance and dangers of inflammation. This week we are going to look at the top 6 foods that cause a pro-inflammatory response.
Eating to Decrease Inflammation
When you eat, your body produces substances called prostaglandins from nutrients in your food. These substances can be either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Imbalances in your diet can lead to the creation of excessive amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins, which fuel the inflammatory response. On the other hand, consuming foods with certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytonutrients can produce more anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that reduce inflammation and improve health. (more on this next week)
What are Some Pro-Inflammatory Foods?
Pro-inflammatory foods may increase inflammation, pain and swelling from inflammation and may also raise you risk for chronic disease. Some of these include:
- Foods high saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in high fat meat, dairy products, and eggs. These foods also contain a substance called arachidonic acid. While some arachidonic acid is essential for health, too much can cause inflammation. Since these foods are also sources of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals, choose low fat dairy products and lean meats.
- Processed meats such as lunch meat, hot dogs, and sausage contain nitrites that increase inflammation and contribute to the chronic disease process.
- Trans Fats – Processed foods containing Trans fat increases inflammation. These include foods like processed baked goods, chips and snack foods, and deep fried fast food. Limit your intake of processed and fried foods that contain trans-fat.
- Coffee – A recent Greek study showed that coffee drinkers who have more than 1 cup a day have increased levels of C Reactive Protein. Men had a 30% increase and women had a 38% increase in CRP levels. Since coffee drinkers also tend to smoke more, exercise less, and eat fewer fruits and vegetables more studies need to be done to establish coffee as an independent risk factor.
- Cooking foods at high temperatures results in a browning effect, where sugars and certain oxidized fats react with proteins to form glycotoxins in the food. Glycotoxins are known to be inflammatory and form in the skin, arteries, joints, cartilage and other places in the body. Avoiding foods cooked at high temperatures also helps prevent the formation of numerous gene mutating toxins that are known to be carcinogens. Some of these foods are: French fries, hamburgers, other deep fried foods, and chips.
- High Glycemic index Carbohydrates – these foods cause excess production of insulin which incites the inflammatory process by producing arachidonic acid. These are quickly digested carbohydrates such as foods with high concentrations of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined baked goods and snacks, and soft drinks. Many of these foods are also high in Trans fats.
Such a list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive but is a good indication of the general categories of foods one can avoid to lessen the impacts of inflammation. Thanks for reading and I hope this has been helpful!
Tune in next week and we’ll look at 6 healthy habits to follow to decrease your level of inflammation .
Terry Perry, RD – Registered Dietitian
Terry is a Spokane native and received her B.S in Food and Nutrition from Eastern Washington University. She has worked as a Registered Dietitian for the last 25 years in the field of Nutrition Education and Disease Prevention. Terry began her dietetics career at Holy Family Hospital and served as Chief Clinical Dietitian, she has been on staff with The American Cancer Society, and the Washington State Dairy Council. For the past 15 years she has worked as a Private Nutrition Consultant to the Washington Dairy Farmers, the YMCA, The Wellness Workshop, KXLY television, as well as a local media spokesperson, a featured newspaper columnist, and conference speaker. From 1991-2006 Terry was a Nutrition Consultant in private practice at South Hill Family Medicine, she is now a coordinator for Washington State Universities Food $ense program. Terry is a member of the American Dietetic Association, The Greater Spokane Dietetic Association, and the Nutrition Entrepreneurs Practice Group. She is also a member of The Healthy Families/Active Kids Coalition, a community consortium that works to promote healthy lifestyles for children and families in the Inland Empire.