TOTW Tuesday: Seven Foods that Trigger Inflammation – Part I

by Ashley on May 28, 2013

Good afternoon! How’s it going!? How was your Memorial Day? Dustin and I had a great day out on the beach, talking, relaxing, and enjoying time together. Everyday is a good day with that guy – I am so blessed.

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I wish I could claim that we did that!

Returning from a holiday is never fun but it’s the return that makes the next holiday so great, right?! If we could play everyday, playing wouldn’t be near as fun.

Anyway, this weeks Tip of the Week Tuesday has to do with a topic most everyone can relate to. As athletes, aging bodies or simply just a human, inflammation is a word mentioned and understood by a variety of people. Married to a former athlete, it was “inflammation” that tended to slow his progress.

“Give it a few weeks. All you need is a little rest,” or so he was constantly told. In fact it was his inflammation that actually led me down the path of nutrition. I was determined to find foods for him to eat that would help minimize this inflammation – and here I am today, talking about it again, five years later. Funny how life works.

Not only does inflammation occur in athletes, but also, in just about everyone as everyday people.  We tend to deal with it a little more as we age too – leading to potential disease, and this is where inflammation is dangerous. Although too much inflammation is certainly not good, a little bit of inflammation is necessary and actually a good thing in order to aid in the healing process during injury or infection.

Chronic inflammation (the bad inflammation), over time can wreck havoc on our health. Heart disease, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune disorders and even some forms of cancer have all been linked to chronic inflammation. In order to help our bodies fight off these diseases it is important that we focus on the things that we can do to decrease our risk.

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So how can we help our bodies nutritionally when it comes to inflammation?

I’m so glad you asked because today’s post is part one of a two part series on eating to reduce inflammation. 😉 Today we will focus on foods that increase inflammation and how we can avoid them and later this week we will look at the foods we should include in our diet to decrease inflammation. The great thing about this weeks tip is that all humans alike can benefit from removing or limiting these foods in their diet.

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Seven Foods that Trigger Inflammation (in no particular order)

1. Trans fats

Generally speaking, trans fats are man-made fats, created in a lab, that actually damage the cells that line our blood vessels. Don’t just look at a food product’s label when looking for trans fat however, check the ingredient list for the word hydrogenated (or partially-hydrogenated). If that word is listed, that means the product still contains trans fats, just a small enough amount in one serving (<0.5) to list it as zero – chances are you aren’t just eating one serving, however. Note: You might want to check your jar of peanut butter tonight when you get home, just sayin’.

2. Sugar

It’s time to rethink the term sugar – its not just the white powdery stuff that we sometimes add to our morning coffee or the ingredient grandma adds to your favorite cake. Sugar is now hidden in so many things. From the high fructose corn syrup in the can of coke to the bagel, white pasta, enriched bread or white rice served at our meals, it’s all the same when it comes to promoting inflammation. Bottom line, we have to minimize the amount of sugar in our diet – choosing whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead.

3. Additives, preservatives, chemicals

The science behind the consumption of these non-food additives is not only young but it’s also science – and as we know, science is always changing. What may be safe today could easily be deadly tomorrow. Found in processed foods, things like MSG, artificial sweeteners, and dyes can often trigger an inflammatory response. By reducing our consumption of processed foods, we will reduce the consumption of these non-food additives as well.

4. Gluten

For those with a known or unknown sensitivity (some reports actually estimate that 1 in every 20 people have an insensitivity to gluten) or allergy to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye (and other cross-contanimated products), the ingestion of this protein may causes an inflammatory response. This is an individual, case-by-case response and does not cause inflammation in every person, only those sensitive or allergic to gluten (as with all other sensitivities and allergies).

5. Vegetable oils

It’s not that vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, soy, etc. oils are terrible, they just aren’t the best. These types of oils are high in Omega-6, while oils like olive and canola are high in Omega-3. In our diets, we want a higher ratio of Omega-3 than Omega-6. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, while omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. The Standard American Diet (SAD) already seems to be very high in Omega-6, found in most processed foods and fast food, therefore it is important that we increase our consumption of Omega-3s.Get it? Got it? Good. Olive oil over other oils. Flax oil and chia oil are also good choices (when it comes to oils) as well.

6. Red meat

Red meat is high in arachidonic acid, a molecule that promotes an inflammatory response in the body. By at least choosing lean poultry and fish, we can minimize this molecule and thus minimize inflammation. Think a lean turkey burger over beef burger or even better, wild caught salmon over filet. Like we mentioned earlier, if you simply cannot resist an occasional piece of red meat, choose grass fed beef over corn fed to at least reduce your Omega 6 intake.

7Dairy 

It seems as though the impact that dairy has on inflammation is a little bit more controversial. According to some reports, as much as 60% of the world population cannot digest milk due to the lactose found in it. Like gluten, for those with sensitivities or allergies, the ingestion of dairy can cause an inflammatory response.

I believe that it is only through education that we can change. Until we understand why we should change, we never will. It was until I started learning the ‘whys’ and not just the ‘you shoulds’ that I was able to make changes in my diet. I hope that this list at least helps you understand a little bit more about the role our diet plays on our health and why making changes is so important. Part II of this inflammation series will be much more positive – detailing the foods we should include to fend off inflammation, so don’t worry, I’m not just taking away, I’ll be giving too! 🙂

I hope you have an awesome Tuesday night!

Good health!

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