What are the worst foods for inflammation?

Everyone knows that inflammatory foods are bad for you. They contribute to weight gain, bloating, fatigue, and can even lead to heart disease down the line. It's not always easy to identify the worst offenders in the food world—but this list will make it a whole lot easier.

These 8 inflammatory foods are likely hiding in your kitchen and make avoiding them a breeze:

worst food for inflammation

1. Refined Sugar

Refined sugar is known to raise blood glucose and insulin levels, which can throw inflammatory hormones out of whack and lead to chronic inflammation. Foods high in refined sugars include candy, baked goods, ice cream, and sweetened beverages.

2. Wheat Flour

Wheat flour provides a large percentage of the bread, cereals, crackers, chips, and many processed foods that Americans eat every day. Wheat flour contains gluten which can damage the intestinal lining, allowing large protein molecules to enter into the bloodstream. When these proteins circulate throughout the body they're seen as foreign invaders which trigger an immune response. The immune system attacks these proteins resulting in chronic inflammation—the source of many autoimmune problems.

3. Corn Oil

Corn oil provides a large percentage of the oils. Americans consume every day (many restaurants cook with it). The problem with corn oil is that it contains high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids which are known to promote inflammation when consumed in large quantities. Large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids can come from eating processed foods and vegetable oils.

4. Non-Organic Produce

Non-organic produce is exposed to pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides which can disturb the delicate gut flora balance in your intestinal tract (gut flora helps break down food and keeps you healthy). Once this balance gets disturbed, bad organisms such as candida can take over causing leaky gut and chronic inflammation.

5. Pasteurized Dairy Products

Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products contain lactose which is difficult to digest for many people. Some studies have shown that raw milk contains anti-inflammatory properties but the pasteurization process eliminates this benefit. When it comes to dairy, opt for raw dairy products if you can. If not, opt for organic to avoid the added hormones and antibiotics that non-organic dairy products sometimes contain.

6. Alcohol

Alcohol provides empty calories which can lead to weight gain, interfere with your sleep cycle and slow down your metabolism. In addition, alcohol is known to increase inflammation in the body which can lead to chronic health problems. Alcohol is processed by the liver so when you drink, your liver has to work extremely hard. This taxes your body and disrupts many biochemical pathways along with triggering inflammation.

7. Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated oils are often added to packaged baked goods such as chips, crackers, and cookies. These oils have been chemically altered into a solid-state with hydrogen atoms, which can lead to inflammation problems in the body. Avoid these foods at all costs!

8. Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye—and it's becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. With an estimated 20-30% of the population having some form of gluten intolerance, you should definitely think twice about including gluten in your diet. Common symptoms associated with gluten intolerance include bloating, brain fog, and fatigue. The worst part is that many people don't experience any noticeable signs or symptoms when they eat something containing gluten—inflammation can be sneaky like that!

What are the 5 classic signs of inflammation?

1. Pain

2. Redness/Heat 

3. Swelling 

4. Loss of function 

5. Loss of temperature regulation

What are the 3 types of inflammations? 

1. Acute inflammation – a short-term, common example is sunburn or a sprained ankle- responds to injury by dilating blood vessels to bring more immune cells and fluid to the area

2. Chronic inflammation – long-term, common example is psoriasis or cardiovascular disease

3. Systemic inflammation – involves the whole body, chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease 

What are some of the consequences of systemic inflammation? 

1. Accelerated aging 

2. Inflammation can damage cells in our bodies and cause cellular mutations which cause cancer 

3. Chronic inflammation decreases the lifespan of human beings 

4. It also reduces insulin sensitivity, making you more likely to gain weight and develop type 2 diabetes 

5. Systemic inflammation causes cardiovascular disease 

How to reduce systemic inflammation?

1. Reduce or eliminate consumption of processed foods 

2. Exercise regularly- not only is physical activity helps in reducing systemic inflammation, but it also helps you maintain a healthy weight which will decrease your risk of chronic disease.

3. Get enough sleep- inadequate or poor-quality sleep stimulates the production of proinflammatory cytokines 

4. Consume antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables which help fight inflammation at the cellular level 

5. Reduce stress levels- stress increases the production of cortisol (a hormone that regulates metabolism, immune response, and blood pressure) which in turn triggers inflammatory responses in the body 

6. Get rid of toxic chemicals in your home- this includes things like cleaning products, bug sprays, paint, secondhand smoke, etc. 

7. Stop smoking- As soon as you stop smoking the inflammatory chemicals will be cleared from your body and can lower your risk of developing chronic disease

8. Take supplements that reduce inflammation such as Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oil) 

9. Eat healthy fats- healthy fats can not only decrease systemic inflammation but are also important for brain function, energy levels, and overall health 

10. Increase your intake of foods containing anti-inflammatory compounds.



Black pepper 



Green tea 


11. Get adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and sardines (6 ounces per week). Omega 3s maintain cellular health by providing anti-inflammatory support to cells throughout the body. 

The main source of omega 3s is cold-water fish. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory because they are converted in the body to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids inhibit the production of leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and other chemicals that directly or indirectly cause inflammation.