Very high levels of inflammation are often caused by serious underlying health problems like rheumatoid arthritis. However, many people unknowingly suffer from chronic inflammation at a lower level, and this is an insidious problem—studies suggest that inflammatory chemicals in the body may shorten your lifespan and make you more vulnerable to disease. The good news is that nutrition can play a huge role in causing unnecessarily high levels of inflammation, so you can take action right now by addressing the following common dietary problems.
1. Avoidance of leafy green vegetables
If you hate the thought of eating leafy greens like kale and spinach, you’re depriving your body of a valuable chance to fight against inflammatory chemicals. The nutrients in leafy greens are proven antidotes to inflammation, regardless of its cause.
Even if you’re not allergic to peanuts, it’s important to realize that peanuts often come with molds and fungi that can trigger inflammatory reactions. If you like nuts, raw almonds or other tree nuts are much better options.
Although you’re probably aware that sugar is connected to weight gain and type 2 diabetes, fewer people are aware that it is an incredibly powerful inflammatory food. Its tendency to increase causes of inflammation levels has been tied to premature aging, a higher likelihood of certain cancers, and an increased risk of heart disease.
4. Refined grains
As you may already know, refined grains (such as those found in white bread, rice and pasta) are lacking in fiber and nutritional value. When you consume them, they instigate an inflammatory response, and research shows that people who eat the most refined grains are more likely to become obese and suffer from cardiovascular problems. Replace refined grains with unrefined grains found in brown rice, oats and brown bread.
5. Lack of water
When you’re not drinking enough water, your cells start to function less effectively, lowering metabolism and preventing important nutrients from being delivered to your vital organs. Lack of water is linked not only to headaches and problems focusing, but also headaches, joint pain, and weight gain. If you don’t like the taste of water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime.
6. Omega-6 fatty acids
If you’re getting plenty of omega-6 fatty acids in your diet but aren’t getting enough omega-3s, you may well be suffering from chronic levels of inflammation. While omega-6s also provide health benefits, the trick is to balance your intake of omega-6s and omega-3s. Try to cut back on foods like seeds and vegetable oils (which are rich sources of omega-6s) and increase your intake of walnuts and oily fish.
7. Diet soda
While diet soda doesn’t pack the caloric punch of regular soda, there is ample evidence that constantly consuming artificial sweeteners can heighten your body’s insulin response in a way that promotes weight gain, diabetes, and widespread causes of inflammation. If you want to compromise, consider trying drinks that contain natural stevia as a sweetener—these drinks contain fewer calories than regular soda, but are not as obviously linked to increased causes of inflammation as artificial sweeteners.
8. Lack of foods containing cultures
Foods like yogurt and sauerkraut contain “good” bacteria that help to keep your digestive system in healthy, working order and reduces causes of inflammation levels. If you’re not consuming enough of these foods, you may not be doing enough to combat sources of inflammation in your diet.
Some view agave as a great alternative to sugar and other sweeteners, but it is actually still packed with sugar (specifically, it is up to 90% fructose). As mentioned above, sugar promotes widespread causes of inflammation, and it also impairs white blood cell function, leaving you more vulnerable to invading pathogens. Don’t be fooled by agave’s favorable reputation!
10. Seasoning mixes
Finally, one of the most surprising nutritional causes of inflammation is seasoning mixes. They seem like a wonderful way to add flavor to soups and meat dishes, but they typically contain hormone-disrupting artificial coloring that can induce inflammation. To make matters worse, they’re often packed with sugar. Instead of using seasoning mixes, opt to make your own with sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne.