The typical North American diet is highly inflammatory. Eating a chronically inflammatory diet leads to chronically elevated stress levels, which leads to a whole host of problems including asthma, food and airborne allergies, sinusitis, dermatitis and weight gain.
So what makes foods inflammatory? There are at least two dozen factors that affect a food’s inflammatory potential, including the amounts and proportion of various fatty acids, the amount of antioxidants and other nutrients, and the food’s glycemic impact, or effect on blood sugar levels.
Eating highly inflammatory foods –- chronic inflammation in the body –- cortisol (stress hormone) production –- increase in blood glucose levels –- weight gain & stress related diseases.
Under stressful conditions, cortisol provides the body with glucose (as a fight or flight response). Elevated cortisol over the long term consistently produces glucose, leading to chronically increased blood sugar levels leading to weight gain (fat storage) and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that cortisol has an effect on appetite and more specifically, cravings for high-calorie foods. It also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones and stress responsive factors known to stimulate appetite.
Here is a list of the top 12 inflammatory foods:
1. The “3 Ps”–Processed, packaged, or prepared foods. And, yes, fast food is atop the list of inflammatory foods thanks to the harmful oils, sugar and artificial sweeteners, food additives, and a whole host of nasty ingredients.
2. Hydrogenated and trans fats found in margarine, shortening, lard or products made with them. That includes baked goods, cookies, pies, buns etc.
3. Meat (not wild-caught fish) - meat and poultry tend to cause inflammation so make them the background of your meals not the main dish.
4. Fried foods (French fries, onion rings, potato chips, nachos, hamburgers, etc.). I think these items speak for themselves.
5. White sugar and sweets, including soft drinks and sweetened juices.
6. Synthetic sweeteners - Nutrasweet, Splenda, saccharin, aspartame, etc
8. Food additives: colors, flavor enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, etc. Some of the main ones include sulfites, benzoates, and colors named FD&C #”X.”
9. Dairy products (yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, butter, cheese, etc.) - today’s dairy products are packed with hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful ingredients so avoid them as much as possible.
10. Wheat products. Wheat is highly acid-forming and inflammatory in the body. Worse, most wheat available now is genetically-modified (GM). Many serious health conditions are starting to be linked to GM wheat consumption.
11. Other gluten-containing grains. Gluten is found in most grains and is highly inflammatory.
12. Alcohol. High in sugar, and a burden to the liver – definitely better used in moderation.
Tracking inflammation in the foods you eat:
Figuring out if the foods you eat are inflammatory is very easy – go to http://www.inflammationfactor.com/ , there you can look up any food, and it will give you either a positive (+) or a negative (-) number based on how inflammatory or anti-inflammatory it is. Positive numbers are good (anti-inflammatory), negative numbers are bad (inflammatory). There is also an App that you can put on your phone or device called “IF Tracker” – its an easy way to look up foods on the go or in the grocery store.
Just by becoming more aware of the inflammatory properties of the foods you are eating, you may even find that you can eliminate (or drastically reduce) any allergies or sensitivities.