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  • Dr. Nancy

7 Foods That Can Increase Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can cause a diverse array of health effects and can even make you more likely to develop certain health conditions. Lots of foods can contribute to this and you’ll definitely want to avoid them! The effects of anti-inflammatory foods can be hugely negated if you’re also consuming plenty of inflammatory foods. Here are a few of the worst culprits for increasing inflammation.

Foods that can increase inflammation, trans fats, vegetable oils, sugar, MSG, saturated fats, processed meats, refined carbohydrates, inflammatory foods
You are what you eat!

Refined carbohydrates

Not all carbs are bad but refined carbs can raise inflammation levels. Research has suggested that they can increase levels of inflammatory gut bacteria that can make you more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease and be obese.

In a study involving young, healthy men who ate 50g of refined carbs had higher blood sugar levels and certain inflammatory markers had also increased.

White bread and white pasta are common examples of refined carbs. Swap them for whole wheat alternatives to give yourself a fiber boost.

Vegetable/seed oils

Some vegetable oils can be hugely inflammatory, including soybean oil. They can contribute omega-6 fatty acids.

Given that the typical Western diet is already full of omega-6 fatty acids and often doesn’t include adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, cooking with these types of oils may increase inflammation levels even more.

In a study on rats, consuming a lot more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids increased inflammatory markers.

Ideally, you want to be getting a lot more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 fatty acids to keep inflammation in check.

Trans fats

There’s a ton of evidence to support that trans fats are one of the worst things you can eat when it comes to inflammation. They’re hugely inflammatory and raise the risk factor for a plethora of conditions.

They can lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and have negative effects on endothelial cells in the blood vessels. The latter is one of the risk factors for heart disease.

They can also raise inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). In one study, women with high levels of CRP also consumed large amounts of trans fats in their diet.

Trans fats are found primarily in processed foods, including margarine, cookies, donuts, crackers, breakfast products, and processed snacks. Fried foods and fast food are also culprits.

Scan food labels and swerve anything with “partially hydrogenated fats” on the label. This is a big giveaway that trans fats are lurking.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats can be a problem too. According to some research, it can “short circuit” immune cells, which can cause an inflammatory response. This can raise the risk factor for heart disease and arthritis, amongst other conditions.

Full-fat dairy products, pizza, red meat, and cheese are some of the biggest sources of saturated fat. If you eat a lot of these foods, look for lower-fat alternatives.


Sugar is hugely inflammatory and is a super common culprit for raising inflammation levels and keeping them high.

High-fructose corn syrup can be a big problem here, not least because it’s a common ingredient in processed foods.

Research has shown that a high-fructose diet can lead to inflammation in the endothelial cells in the blood vessels and raise the risk factor for developing heart disease.

A high-fructose diet has also been linked to increased inflammatory markers in both mice and humans.

Mice that were given a high-fructose diet didn’t see as much anti-inflammatory effect from omega-3 fatty acids.

The bottom line? If you’re already getting plenty of fructose from fruits and vegetables, you will want to limit your intake from elsewhere. Added sugars, in general, encourage the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Processed meats

Processed meats are linked to inflammation. They tend to contain more advanced glycation end products (AGEs) as they cook, and this can be inflammatory. Eating a lot of processed meat can be a risk factor for certain types of cancer, including colon cancer.

Processed meats can include bacon, ham, and sausages. Swap processed and fatty meats for fish or lean protein. Poultry and lean cuts of grass-fed beef can work great for the latter.

Foods with MSG

Mono-sodium-glutamate (MSG) is added to many foods to add flavor. It can also encourage inflammation. It’s a super common ingredient in pre-prepared Asian foods, soy sauce, salad dressings, pre-prepared soups, deli meats, and fast food.

If you eat these types of foods regularly, think about making your own soups, salad dressings, and Asian-inspired dishes. It may take a little bit more time, but you’ll know that it’s free from MSG and a lot healthier.


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