Of the 10 leading causes of death, eight of them have been linked to the same underlying cause: inflammation, a chronically on-high-alert immune system response. What’s more, certain types of foods can trigger it more than others.
“Inflammation is not a state that can be induced by one meal or snack,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “But over time, these foods comprise a dietary pattern that can lead to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which impact various organ systems by impeding blood flow overall.”
Some especially bad offenders include the overly processed, fried, or sugary treats you’re already minimizing in your diet, and for good reason. Inflammation correlates with a number of different health conditions. “Long-term, low-grade inflammation can persist in all of our cells and tissues, playing a key role in everything from acne to arthritis,” says Dr. Corey W. Kirshner.
Help prevent inflammation by cutting down on these top foods that trigger it.
This includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage and other meats that have undergone salting, curing, or smoking. “These meats are a five-alarm fire when it comes to inflammation,” says Kirshner, in his book The Whole Body Cure. In addition to spiking inflammation, these foods have also been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer.
Uncured red meat — such as steak or burgers — is less harmful to your health than processed meat, especially if you purchase the certain varieties, says Kirshner. He recommends choosing grass-fed, organic varieties, which contain fewer pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals.
Sugary cereals and other treats can raise blood glucose levels, which can lead to a spike in inflammation. “The effect is more pronounced in people who have any form of glucose intolerance,” says Kirshner. Choose whole foods that are free from added sugar, such as whole apples instead of flavored applesauce.
Refined carbohydrates — including the white flour that forms the base of white bread and white pasta — have been stripped of their nutrients and fiber. Foods made with white flour are usually also high in sugar. Instead, look for high-fiber, 100% whole-grain options.
Battered, deep-fried foods
These breaded foods basically get covered in a layer of refined carbs, London says, and they’re also high in saturated fat and excess calories. “You’d be better off sautéing, grilling, steaming, poaching, roasting, or pan-frying,” she advises.