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Top 6 Foods that Cause Inflammation

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:

  1. 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.Hamburgers are high in Saturated Fat
  2. Processed meats such as lunch meat, hot dogs, and sausage contain nitrites that increase inflammation and contribute to the chronic disease process.Sausage contains nitrites which can lead to inflammation
  3. 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.cookie, high in trans fat, can cause inflammation
  4. 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. Also coffee drinkers tend to smoke more, exercise less, and eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Therefore, more studies need to be done to establish coffee as an independent risk factor.Coffee can cause inflammation
  5. 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.Charred hotdogs can lead to inflammation
  6. 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.Soda Pop. High Glycemic foods cause inflammation

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.


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30 thoughts on “Top 6 Foods that Cause Inflammation”

  1. This article is wrong by saying that saturated fats, sausages, and coffee cause inflammation,but it was right that too many carbohydrates cause inflammation. What do people usually have with saturated fats, sausages, and coffee? High carbohydrates. There’s the culprit. So you have to do an independent study. Also, many people smoke. So in these studies, you need to get non smokers, non drinkers, and low carbers to volunteer, and then see what happens, and very likely you’ll see that there is no problem with saturated fats, sausages, and coffee. Carbohydrates is to blame. Look at for medical papers that prove that carbs cause inflammation.

  2. This information is outdated and in most cases just plain wrong.
    Saturated fats are not the bad guys here.
    Arachidonic acid is required by the body – not all inflammation is bad.
    In fact it used as a gym supplement in pretty large amounts, in same cases over several years and has been shown to reduce heart problems and increase the strength and resiliency of the vascular system, and also helps with type 2 diabetes.
    2 to 4 cups of coffee have been shown to produce many positive effects (chlorogenic acid in coffee helps with type 2 diabetes).
    In short, do your homework and dont just believe what people write on the web.

  3. My daughter(5) has been diagnosed with pancreatitis… What can I give her that would b beneficial and what should I avoid?

  4. Besides going for the plain varieties soo you don’t need it.
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    your insurance company offers wellness benefits, use them.
    In a case of any health problems running physician formula inside your family,
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  5. i just got a juicer and wanted to no what vegies i could use to help stop the inflamation i have in my legs so bad. any one have any god ides? and fruit as well. thanks for the help

  6. Thank-you so much for this information. I have an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. I have suffered from depression for 40 years. I am 70lbs overweight. I am in constant pain ie: joint, skin allergies and nerve pain. I have had some tests recently and they say nothing is wrong with me. The Doctor’s prescribe pain pills and valium and that does’nt help. I eat a lot of sugar, diet sodas and everything else you have listed.
    They are all being thrown out today. I now believe I have found the answer and all the bad inflammatory foods are being thrown out today! Praise God!

  7. Thank you for your information. I have been suffering from a skin condition for over 117 years. I have narrowed it down to certain foods. Your physiological exploitation mwas, helpful. Thank you.

  8. Wife has mixed connective tissue disease. She has pain in most of her joints. Both knees replaced and a hip. She isn’t even 45. We will keep foods you say out of her diet, any other foods that would help her would be great. Doctors never talk about foods that would help her.

    • Hi Paul,

      Its true! I once had a doctor who proudly announce that he only took 1 credit of nutrition during his whole time at medical school. Kind of a shame if you ask me…

    • Hello and greetings I have a highly reliable recommendation if you really want information about inflammation, heart disease and nutrition first watch this video: Forks over Knives(two doctors go into extensive detail about the benefits of a plant based diet that keeps the body at it’s optimum performance and keeps it safe and guarded from the diseases that plague America)…Frankly not only will it change your entire perspective on food but also will it open your eyes to the damage of the American diet.

      Next if you would like to even go further, the same doctor T. Cambell who takes part in the documentary, has done extensive research on nutrition….its AMAZING!!!!! It’s called The China Study. The truth is inflammation, high blood pressure, heart disease and many other health issues are caused or cured by…your diet.
      The more you know the better decisions you are able to make!
      I wish you good health and perseverance.

  9. The enclosed note is see if you can identiy my problem. I sufer from athritis psoriasis and have pain all over my body most of time. I never had high blodd pressure and recently my bp is showing indications of prehypertension. Im not in treatment for my arthritis avoiding taking meds that would cause additional problems instead I take Naproxen or ibuprofen. I recently became aware of Naproxen and high b/p. How long before my B/p return to normal? and what is in new for my prob without altering my B/p.

    • Hi Carmen,

      Sorry but we really cant be diagnosing conditions. Ever. Especially not in this comments section.

      My advice is to find a really open minded MD or ND would can give you good medical advice.

  10. You information here is very suspect. I just finished reading 3 books in inflammation and your info here needs updating.

    First of all, saturated fat is not very inflammatory. Actually, as far as inflammation goes
    here is a list a meats in the order of their AA (causes inflammation) content.

    Worst to Best
    1. Farm Raised Salmon – horrible for you.
    2. Fatty Pork
    3. Fatty Turkey
    4. Fatty chicken
    5. Lean Turkey
    6. Lean chicken or pork – (tie)
    7. Fatty lamb
    8. Fatty beef
    9. Lean lamb
    10. Lean beef
    (Source: :Inflammation Nation” By Floyd Chilton and others as well.

    Also, anything that raises your blood sugar quickly is pro-inflammatory – bread, cereals, juice, sugar etc.

    The best diet or your heart just happens to be the best diet against inflammation (remember we now know heart disease is related to inflammation – not cholesterol or saturated fat). This diet is fairly strict Paleo diet eating only grass fed beef, lamb and naturally raised pork. Paleo also means as much low-carb veges as you want and moderate fruit intake, but no juice as it raises your blood sugar exactly the same as same as a sugary soda does.

  11. I have all over body pain that was so bad I thought I would have to quit work. I went on a plant based veagan diet. It has been five months and I am so much better. At times i will have something small that I shouldnt have like gluten or piece of meat. Every time now it will take two days to recover. I had a glass of wine and fried squid with friends at happy hour. I had an all body flare and the worst pain. it started in my ankles and went all the way to my jaw. all from food. I juice carrots and granny smith apples every day. It gives me and my husband so much energy and less pain. no sugar, gluten, wheat, meat, milk and milk products. Lots of vegetables, dried figs, nuts, etc. I am doing good. Yesterday I had such a bad reaction i had to take steriods. hope this helps someone.

  12. I have read this page because I have chronic inflammatory conditions and was hoping to learn what foods to avoid. however, I already dont eat these foods and /or very rarely eat perhaps one or two. I rarely have take aways. once or twice a year. I dont eat sausages. its a puzzle to me. how can i improve my condition if there isnt anything to change…………? my one indulgence is coffee, but that is not to the extreme. Perhaps there may be some other “natural” rememedies I might discover.
    thank you for the article, it may be useful for some.
    Its often a case of trial and error.

  13. Terry I’m so glad I found you! I’ve been struggling with Iritis for 1 yr now. Everytime I try to wean off the cortizone/steriod eye drops the Iritis reoccurs. Eye specialists just insists I keep doing the drops even though the side affects are horrible. I figure if my eye gets inflammed, my body must be inflammed. It looks like the foods I’ve been eating are considered inflammatory or maybe I’m allergic. I will be checking back with you daily. Hoping I’ll find an answer from you. May you be showered with blessings. Thank you 🙂

  14. I am so glad i came across this page..thank you so much for all the useful information.I need someone like you to help with eating healthy.

  15. Oh wow, here I am trying to be healthier and workout. And I just found out I am not supposed to be eating sausage… LOL

    I guess I better go stock my fridge with better sources of protein!
    Thanks for the read!


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