6 inflammation-causing foods no one talks about

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ShoppingThere's a five-alarm fire sounding these days about inflammation, and with good reason. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and acne are just some of the possible consequences of too much inflammation in the body.

According to Nicholas Perricone, M.D., the pioneering nutritionist and dermatologist (who wrote the book on anti-inflammation eating), our bodies actually depend on temporary inflammation to help fight off sudden injuries or infection. But when that inflammation becomes chronic, "the immune system mistakenly attacks normal cells, and the process that ordinarily heals becomes destructive."

Like so many health issues, the main culprit is too much sugar, which is why you've probably heard the sweet stuff singled out—as well as other well-known offenders, like dairy, booze, and trans-fat-filled fried foods. But inflammation can sneak up on you via lots of seemingly innocent foods. Here are six surprising sources you might want to approach with caution... —Amanda Benchley

Photo: Foodnetwork.com

agave1. Agave

Despite its (questionable) rep as a worry-free sweetener, agave is ultimately still full of sugar—with a fructose content of up to 90 percent. "Sugar suppresses the activity of our white blood cells, which makes us more susceptible to infectious disease (colds, the flu, and so forth) as well as cancer," explains Dr. Perricone. Plus, sugar overload can cause collagen fibers to lose their strength, making skin "more vulnerable to sun damage, wrinkles, and sagging," he adds.

Photo: Weheartit.com

Froyo2. Frozen yogurt

Froyo has two potential inflammatory culprits: sugar and dairy. Milk can boost insulin levels and male hormones, and it's a common allergen, which means it can trigger inflammatory reactions (anything from diarrhea to hives). But not all frozen yogurts are created equal, says Andrew Weil, M.D., director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the College of Medicine, and an anti-inflammatory evangelist. "Some frozen yogurts contain the milk protein casein, which may increase inflammation," he explains. "Others contain specific probiotics that may actually reduce it." (And some frozen "yogurts" contain no dairy at all and use coconut milk.)

Photo: Weheartit.com

Screen shot 2013-10-30 at 8.48.43 AM 3. Barley and Rye

These healthy (and delicious) grains don't cause the same sugar spike that refined carbs do, but they can spark inflammation in some people. Why? The short answer is gluten. If you're at all sensitive to it, and especially if you have Celiac disease, consuming barley or rye (in food or booze form) can cause your tissues to flame up. Go easy on these grains, especially if you are already feeling ache-y or having joint pain—two possible indicators of inflammation.

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Seitan4. Seitan

Sure, you love Candle Café's seitan piccata, but there's a reason why this veggie staple is known as "wheat meat": It's made entirely from wheat gluten. Protein, yay! But when it comes to inflammation, gluten "can trigger the immune system, causing inflammation in the intestinal tract," explains Melissa Wood, nutritional health coach at The Morrison Center in New York City. And that can mean IBS, constipation, or bloating for some people.

Photo: Food52.com

Peanuts5. Peanuts

Like milk, peanuts are a common allergen—and allergies set off a broad inflammatory response in the body while it struggles to fight off the foreign agent. Plus, peanuts are prone to molds and fungus, which can also result in inflammatory reactions, says Wood. So you may want to pass on the peanuts, and instead opt for raw organic almonds or other tree nuts and butters, she advises.

Photo: Ohnuts.com

Screen shot 2013-10-30 at 12.04.52 PM6. Seasoning mixes

Short-cut seasoning mixes may add an easy flavor burst to black bean tacos and salad dressings, but according to Wood, they usually contain artificial coloring (which can disrupt hormone function and lead to inflammation), and a big scoop of sugar. To get the same taste without all the bad stuff, she recommends a combo of cayenne pepper, sea salt, cracked pepper, and apple cider vinegar that you make yourself. (Or here's a healthy recipe for taco seasoning.)

Photo: Barefeetinthekitchen.com


13 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. Heath Norton
    November 4th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the heads up! Frozen Yogurt is a love of mine.

  2. November 4th, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Don’t forget about nightshade vegetables! They’re some of my favorite foods, but when I eat them, the inflammation and pain is unbearable!

  3. November 11th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    this agave article is not exactly accurate. first of all, we can all agree that from a purists perspective, NO sweetener is always better than some sweetener. that being said, there are no purists here. therefore raw agave, maple syrup, coconut nectar are GUILT FREE sweeteners. and when used in small amounts are not any cause for the alarm words used in this article. natural sugars and “sugar” are two misused often confused terms.
    raw sugar from fruit that has not been processed or isolated has companion nutrients and a completely different effect on the chemistry than processed and refined sugar. sugars are not evil. they are actually necessary and so is fruit.

    stop bashing agave. fred bisci, phd who has been truly 100% raw for over 45 years consumes raw agave and he and i both understand the confusing things that are written about agave.

    the problem with too much fruit or agave sugar is that whenever there is an excess amount of sugar that can not be burned by oxygen it is often times fermented in the body. it is fermentation that is the problem not sugar. fermentation produces alcohol. and its the alcohol that puts the white blood cells to sleep. not sugar.

    agave should never be compared to processed and isolated sweeteners like brown or white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.
    its just a simple uneducated statement and perpetuation of mass confusion about simple bio chemistry.

    sugar to high degree does not suppress the immune –

    a small dose of agave – maple – coconut and similar sugars do not adversely affect most people. the more sugar from fruit or starchy vegetables such as carrots one consumes, the more active you should be to utilize the sugar as energy rather create excess in the blood.

    when agave, maple, coconut sugar is mixed with the fiber and fruits its totally harmless depending on how your body handles sugar.

  4. November 19th, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Too much talk about Gluten. Yes, gluten can be a big problem for someone with Celiac Disease but the majority of people who think they are gluten intolerant and are on gluten free diets don’t actually have any biomarkers showing they have Celiac Disease. This is a hot topic and gluten-free is used as a buzz word to sale products and diets these days. Celiac Disease has been on the rise since the 1950’s, but it still only affects about 1% of the population and yet I constantly hear a disproportionate amount people saying they avoid gluten.

  5. Iris Griffin
    July 26th, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I am happy to hear that there are some natural sugars if taken in moderation can be of great benefit to the body and not cause inflammation. The body needs some fats, sugars, and even some gluten to maintain it naturally. Thanks for the info. and God bless!

  6. August 28th, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    This list helped to explain my body’s inflamed reaction to some of the foods on this list.

    Especially the more ancient grains…wow…that was a painful lesson. And, frankly, the blood sugar spike wasn’t much lower with them than the other grains for my physiology. Gluten doesn’t do that to me…it was something else…most likely the blood sugar scouring my veins and causing inflammation…and the agave field test was similarly painful for my physiology. I’d rather have cane sugar than any other sweetener out there (and my blood sugar reads back this)…but my learned preference is stevia and a small bit of honey. Fresh stevia is also good for chewing…I can’t remember how, but it helps one’s teeth and gums.

  7. October 15th, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Daniel get used to the word gluten free it isn’t going away, it is just being discovered this year by people suffering from joint pain, arthritis and it is a miracle cure! I have been searching the web for years on how to naturally cure inflammation and no one ever mentioned gluten free. But now, search, it is out there and thankfully for those who need it! You couldn’t pay me to eat gluten and take back that horrific pain!

  8. Syba Naturals
    December 9th, 2014 at 4:15 am

    How we eat really affects our overall wellness. I guess, “everything in moderation” is still the best way to be lessen the negative of those foods. Being well informed too helps a lot, being updated on what’s really the best natural and preventive alternative is best to focus on than on foods that causes illnesses. If there are inflammation causing foods, why not focus on foods that contains high anti-inflammatory properties.

  9. March 22nd, 2015 at 8:22 am

    I think this article missed one of the biggest culprits: MSG (monosodium glutimate) It is supposedly a “flavor enhancer”. It is found in an unbelievable number of food items, including Meat Tenderizer, Soy Sauce, packed foods, canned foods, canned soup, packaged seasonings, etc.

  10. Tina
    May 27th, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Hi.My Dears.
    Thanks for all this info.
    I have arthritis put i was told to keep away from all the sugars. corn, Carbs,wheat and i seem to be doing fine but you did not mention Honey. Is it okaf to take honey if i have inflammation of the knees.
    Please Help. I take Weetabix is is okay ?

  11. July 12th, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    For those of you who think you maybe gluten intolerant but need more proof that it could be a factor . Check out chriskreeser.com he has done a god amount of research on this subject. He is a doctor and very educated on this subject.

  12. July 17th, 2015 at 2:52 am

    So what are the six foods??????????????????? I got Agave and MSG, thanks a lot. The question is, does chicken cause inflammation?

  13. July 22nd, 2015 at 2:51 am

    I was looking for six food that I should avoid

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