Avoiding Inflammation

Sam Lluisé

Sam Lluisé

Empowering Women to reclaim their health

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There is no doubt that diet plays a central role in regulating inflammation. In fact, a 2017 survey found that nearly one-quarter of those with rheumatoid arthritis reported that their diet impacted symptom severity. Even for those without an autoimmune disorder, limiting a few of the top foods that cause inflammation can be incredibly beneficial to overall health.

What exactly is inflammation? 

Inflammation is considered a defence mechanism used by the body to protect against illness and infection.

Although inflammation is a normal part of the immune process, more and more research shows that chronic inflammation can contribute to disease, trigger pain and increase the risk of serious issues, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes & alzheimers disease.

So what foods cause inflammation? In this post, I will take a look at a few of the foods that cause inflammation to avoid, plus some healthy swaps that you can make in your diet.

Top Foods that Cause Inflammation

Fried foods

Such as doughnuts and chips are high in trans fats, a type of unhealthy fatty acid that has been linked to a long list of side effects. In addition to cranking up cholesterol levels and increasing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, trans fats may also trigger inflammation.

According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, increased consumption of trans fatty acids was associated with higher levels of markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).

Processed Meat

Is any type of meat that has been smoked, cured, salted, dried, or tinned to enhance its flavour or extend its shelf life. Some of the most common examples include cold cuts, bacon, salami, sausage, and beef jerky.
Not only was processed meat recently named carcinogenic by the World Health Organization, but it can contribute to inflammation as well. Studies show that eating more processed meat may be associated with higher levels of CRP, a marker that is used to measure inflammation in the body.

According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, increased consumption of trans fatty acids was associated with higher levels of markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).

Artificial Sweeteners  

Often lurking in low-calorie foods and diet products, there is research suggests that artificial sweeteners could cause inflammation. Although more research in humans is needed, studies indicate that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the health of the gut microbiome, which plays a key role in regulating inflammation.

One animal model also found that regular consumption of sucralose, also known as Splenda, could cause liver inflammation in mice.

High-fructose corn syrup

Is a type of sweetener that is often found in processed foods, including fizzy drinks, juice, lollies, and ice cream. Just like regular sugar, high-fructose corn syrup is at the head of the inflammatory foods chart and can have detrimental effects on nearly every aspect of health.

One study found that women who consumed more sugar-sweetened beverages had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints. Another study published in Nutrition & Diabetes also reported that increased consumption of drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup was associated with a higher risk of arthritis in adults ages 20–30 as well.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbs like pasta, white bread, cookies, and crackers are notorious as some of the top foods that cause inflammation of the joints. These foods undergo extensive processing, stripping them of beneficial nutrients, such as fibre.

Refined carbs also tend to have a higher glycemic index, which is used to measure how quickly foods increase blood sugar levels. Research shows that consuming foods with a high glycemic index may drive up inflammation, even in healthy adults.

On the other hand, studies show that swapping refined grains for whole grains instead can decrease inflammation and protect against chronic disease.


Although certain types of alcohol such as red wine can actually be beneficial in moderation (hello Mediterranean diet). However, excessive alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for inflammation. Studies show that consuming high levels of alcohol can increase certain inflammatory markers, including CRP.

What’s more, alcohol intake can also increase the risk of leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which toxins and food particles leak from the digestive tract into the blood, causing widespread inflammation.

Vegetable oil

Heavily processed or refined vegetable oils are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-6 fatty acids are an important component of a healthy diet, consuming a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids can trigger inflammation.

While experts generally recommend aiming for a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids of around 4:1, most people consume a ratio closer to 15:1 instead. Therefore, limiting your consumption of refined vegetable oils while also adding more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet may help alleviate inflammation.

Anti-Inflammatory Food Swaps

photo of vegetable salad in bowls

In addition to restricting your intake of foods that cause inflammation from the list above, beginning to incorporate a variety of foods that assist in reducing inflammation into your diet can also be beneficial.

A healthy, well-rounded anti-inflammatory diet should comprise mostly nutrient-dense, whole foods, including fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Herbs, spices, healthy fats, and protein foods are included on the anti-inflammatory foods list as well.

Making a few simple swaps in your diet is an easy way to get started. Try trading processed meats, for example, with healthier protein sources, like fish, poultry, eggs, or legumes.


A Sample of Anti-Inflammatory Foods to INCLUDE

  • Fruits: peaches, pineapple, mangoes, apples, berries, pears, oranges
  • Vegetables: broccoli, kale, spinach, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, watercress, tomatoes, garlic
  • Nuts and Seeds: pistachios, macadamia nuts, almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, peas
  • Whole Grains: quinoa, couscous, farro, millet, buckwheat, barley
  • Proteins: salmon, chicken, turkey, eggs, tempeh
  • Healthy Fats: coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, avocados, hemp seeds
  • Herbs and Spices: turmeric, black pepper, rosemary, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper, dill

You can read all about why I love turmeric soooo much here.

For a delicious dip with lots of anti-inflammatory benefits you might like to make my turmeric hummus

Copyright © Samantha Lluisé of Lotus Womens Health 2021

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