Foods That Cause Inflammation – A Quick Guide

I had a positive response to our article Whole Foods That Fight Inflammation. I received messages with questions about what foods actually cause inflammation and ways to remedy or replace them. So I put together this quick guide as a way to address the questions and suggestions to improve upon your diet.

Before we begin, there are some foods that you may tolerate better than another person and hence they may not cause inflammation for you. Everyone’s genetics are different. This list in not comprehensive by any means and should be taken as a guide only.

Let’s look at the broad picture first. Things that we consume regularly without thinking about it. I’ve divided them into three broad areas with basic explanations.


I’m not suggesting you give it up or go vegan. In fact, I’m a strong opponent of the vegan lifestyle for several reasons. I’ve even written an article on that as well. However, meat in America today is mostly farm-raised. This has several drawbacks. In regards to beef and chicken, the animals are fed grain. They are also treated with antibiotics and hormones to increase meat production. The same can be said for farm-raised fish. Unfortunately grain-fed animals pass along the harm of grain to the consumers of said meat, US. Grain has a tremendous impact on inflammation in our bodies, not to mention the remains of other hormones and drugs these animals ingest. Think about buying cage-free or grass-fed beef and chicken or wild caught fish.

Fats – The Bad Ones

Any hydrogenated or trans fat containing product you should steer clear from. However, you have to look more in depth than just margarine or shortening. All those baked goods at Starbucks and other local bakeries and shops, you guessed it use these products to make their tasty pastries. Things such as cookies, pies, buns, and other baked goods use shortening or margarine of some sort. Try to only consume in moderation or stay away from altogether.

Fast Food

Anything processed, packaged, or prepared ahead of time for reheating is questionable. Fast food, especially fried fast food is a real culprit here. Brands such as Chipotle are trying to break the norm and provide quality food for a slightly higher price. Be wary of anything fried in oil or not prepared fresh daily. Fast food chains are moving towards healthier options due to increased consumer awareness.

The List

This quick list and their explanations are a starting point for someone looking to make a change. That being said, removing only one of these from your diet will not have a big enough impact. You have to tackle your overall diet and make overall changes. So here we go and these are in no specific order.


You’re already saying to yourself, here he goes. We can’t eat anything. No that’s not the case at all. Sugar in moderation is fine. But noted researcher Julie Daniluk R.H.N. states “too much sugar can alert the body to send out extra immunity messengers, called cytokines.” Cytokines role in the body are to create inflammation and protect the body. Cut back on your daily sugar intake. Sugars typically are ingredients that end in -ose such as sucrose, dextrose, maltose, etc. Looking for an upcoming article on quick ways to reduce sugar consumption coming this week from me.

Bad Fats

As stated before, hydrogenated and trans-fats. Grocery items such as margarine, canola oil, corn oil, and soybean oil are typically ones here. They contain one or both of these types of fights. Trans fats can induce inflammation by damaging the cells in the lining of blood vessels, according to the Mayo Clinic, part of the reason many companies are limiting use in their products. Olive oil would be a substitute here.

White Bread and Pasta

We’ve heard it for years. Whole grain, whole grain, whole grain. In a 2010 study, researchers found that a diet high in refined grains led to a greater concentration of a certain inflammation marker in the blood, while a diet high in whole grains resulted in a lower concentration of two different inflammation markers. Proofs in the bloodwork. Substitute whole grain products when you can.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

You’ve heard how omega-3’s can be good for you. What you do not hear is how omega-6 fatty acids are bad for you. The average American gets more omega-6 fatty acids via diet than omega-3s, but this imbalance can lead to inflammation, according to U.S. News. How to correct this? Try to balance your fat intake of omega-6 to omega-3 in a 1:1 ratio. See the chart below as a reference to which oils are high in omega-6.

Chart showing omega-6 content of cooking oils


Do not stop drinking milk or consuming dairy altogether. Studies show moderate intake of low-fat dairy products actually protect the body against inflammation. Stay away from whole milk or full-fat dairy products that contain saturated fat though.

Food Stabilizers, Flavor enhancers, Preservatives

You cannot avoid them all so let’s be honest here. Moderation. But avoid MSG at all costs if possible. It is found primarily in asian fast-food. Try to avoid sulfites, benzoates, and artificial coloring too if possible.

Gluten-Containing Products

Yes, they are still doing more research in this area to determine if there is gluten intolerance. However, many people without celiac disease still report feeling better after removing gluten from their diet. In fact, 30% of Americans are now actively avoiding gluten. Never hurts to try something new. Substitute buckwheat, quinoa, or millet for pancakes  or baking.


The worst part about wheat is its highly acid-forming. Most wheat in the USA is from genetically modified plants and there are studies starting to criticize the use of GMO plants. However, one could try and limit wheat consumption to half of what they currently eat.


Again, this is something to consume just in moderation. There are so many benefits to one to two glasses of wine or other certain types of alcohol. Drinking in excess though causes much more damage related to sugar consumption and intestinal leaking which in turn creates problems in the stomach. Common sense should apply here.

As always, ask questions or leave comments. I hope this answers many of the questions I received in regards to the previous article. My approach and practice is moderation. I myself could never give up all the grains and past, I’m Italian. But trying to consciously limit things can make improvements in your overall lifestyle and sense of well-being. Think I’m crazy? There’s even this Book cover of Idiots Guide

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