For many people, the battle against inflammation starts with the food you put into your body. While there are many different tactics you can use to do so, one of the best is limiting your intake of foods in your diet that trigger inflammation. In an episode of You Versus Food, Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, a registered dietitian in New York City, breaks down the common causes of inflammation and the foods to avoid in order to keep it at bay.
“Inflammation is your body’s process of fighting against things that harm it, such as infections, illnesses, injuries, and toxins in an attempt to heal itself,” says Beckerman. “When your body is damaged, the body releases chemicals, triggering a response from the immune system, causing tissues to swell. The swelling cuts off the injured or infected parts to prevent the foreign substances from infiltrating more parts of the body.”
While Beckerman says some foods can help prevent inflammation—like berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, turmeric, and all the greens—there are also ones that do the opposite when eaten in excess. Here are five foods that trigger inflammation.
Foods that trigger inflammation, according to an RD
1. Added sugar
When it comes to inflammation, Beckerman says steering clear of added sugar can make a big difference. “Table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have been shown to increase biomarkers of inflammation in the body,” she says. “Eating a lot of sugar has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, brain and heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and cancer.”
2. Refined carbs
Like sugar, refined carbs should be limited as well in order to avoid inflammation. “Refined carbs—or carbs that have most of their fiber removed—are also a no-go when it comes to trying to prevent inflammation,” she says. “When you’re eating foods without fiber, your body produces insulin to shuttle glucose out of the blood. But over time, insulin starts to get tired so it produces more and more of its kind to get the job done.”
3. Processed meat
There are many reasons why Beckerman recommends avoiding processed meat—inflammation is just one of them. “Processed meat has long been associated with an increase in heart disease, diabetes, stomach cancer, colon cancer, and of course inflammation because they contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs),” she says. “AGEs are harmful compounds formed when foods, such as meat, are cooked at high temperatures. An abundance of AGEs in the body have been linked to the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, so it’s important to take note of this before going all in with the meat.”
Red wine in moderation might actually benefit your heart, but it has many deleterious effects when consumed in excess. “We all know that frequent alcohol consumption has several harmful effects, but one of the biggest is an increase in inflammation,” says Beckerman. “When alcohol is broken down, it generates toxic byproducts that can damage liver cells and weaken the immune system.”
5. Trans fats
Are you even surprised trans fats made this list? “Trans fats created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats have been linked to heart disease and dementia over time. That’s why the FDA banned them,” she says. “Be sure to read the labels of your food to inspect for those sneaky inflammatory ingredients, like ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oils.”