6 Foods That Can Cause Inflammation
If you’re plagued with chronic inflammation, you may want to take a closer look at the foods you eat. Persistent inflammation of the cells has been linked to a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Here are six foods that may be contributing factors.
1: Salad Dressings
Most store-bought salad dressings are made with Omega-6 oils, which include safflower, sunflower, grape, vegetable and soy. The body can’t produce Omega-6 fats, so you must obtain them through food. However, overdoing it on Omega-6 fats has been shown to cause the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals.
Instead: Make salad dressings with Omega-3-rich olive or canola oil.
2: Regular and Diet Soda
Regular soda is filled with sugar, and lots of it. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed close to 1,500 women over a period of 13 years and looked at how often they ate certain foods. Women who ate more refined sugars or starches, fewer bread and cereals, and fewer vegetables were at a greater risk for diseases that are linked to inflammation, like heart disease.
Think sugar-free soda is better? Think again! Diet sodas made with aspartame can also affect inflammation in the body. Some folks are sensitive to sweet stuff, and your body will react by triggering the immune system (an inflammatory response) and attacking the chemical.
Instead: Choose beverages like water, seltzer, tea, coffee and 100 percent fruit juice instead of any type of soda.
3: Ice Cream
Saturated fat has been shown to help trigger inflammation in fat tissue. One-half cup of full-fat vanilla ice cream contains 137 calories, 7 grams of total fat and 4 grams of saturated fat (22 percent of the recommended daily amount). Most folks eat 2 or more cups of ice cream at one time, consuming a minimum of 16 grams of saturated fat, or 88 percent of the daily recommended amount, in one sitting.
Instead: Stick with a 1/2-cup serving of vanilla or chocolate ice cream on occasion, and bulk it up with sliced fruit and 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts.
4: White Rice
Many refined starches, including white rice, have a higher glycemic index, which has been shown to indirectly stimulate inflammation. The serving size of carbohydrates like white rice is about 1 1/2 cups at one meal, but many folks go way overboard and gobble up 4 or 5 cups (or more!) in one sitting.
Instead: Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, amaranth and sorghum instead, and stick to portions of about 1 1/2 cups.
Overconsumption of alcohol has been shown to cause inflammation, especially of the liver, the organ that helps metabolize it. If you like to kick back with 3 or 4 drinks regularly after work or on weekends, you may want to rethink how much you’re drinking.
Instead: The Dietary Guidelines recommend that if you choose to drink alcohol, you drink in moderation, which is defined as 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men. One drink is defined as 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquor like vodka or rum.
It’s tough to stop eating just one chip. But whether you’re eating potato, bean, lentil or veggie chips, you’re loading up on tons of sodium. This can cause swelling in your hands or feet, or just an overall puffiness in places around your body.
Instead: If you love chips, take 1 serving (or 1 ounce) out of the bag and stash the bag out of sight. If you’re unable to control your chip urges, it may be a good idea to keep chips out of the house altogether.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.