The body has a simple and straightforward relationship with food. We need it for nourishment, energy and for completing our bodily functions.
But, some foods go beyond their role in triggering inflammation. This is akin to when an allergy or a bruise causes our body to inflame. In that sense inflammation is a bodily reaction to something it perceives as a threat.
Oftentimes, it shows up as pain in the joints and swelling that is unrelated to a physical wound. It can also lead to fogginess, depression, anxiety and mood swings.
If you exercise regularly, cut out those extra calories and even take the time to put together a healthy eating timetable, but find that all that intense work is to no end. You still carry the weight around your belly, arms, thighs or hips. Then you may be the victim of a condition called low-grade Inflammation.
The important point to note is that inflammation is fixable. Just follow the right diet and eat the right foods. But if you don’t take corrective action now inflammation can become chronic. In this state, it can set you up for other chronic conditions: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.
Inflammatory Response in a Nutshell
Inflammation or Inflammatory response is a condition that is triggered by some types of foods we consume. While certain foods have an anti-inflammatory response, such as coconut, broccoli and goji berries. Certain other unhealthy foods, that we will list further in this post, produce an inflammatory response.
To explain the scene within the body, consider inflammation as the battlefront. Inflammation signals to the rest of the body that a certain threat has been identified, and the body has fortified itself so that our defences are not penetrated. There is a lot of activity happening in the area as the body tackles the threat.
Usually, this is a good thing. Especially for cases when you are prone to allergies. The white blood cells, or WBCs, are brought-on as the body fights-off the potential threat. And in due course, the inflammation is subdued as the threat is discarded.
But in case of inflammation caused due to an improper diet, the inflammation stays. And the next course or meal reinforces the body’s need for inflammation. In this heightened state, the body channels all its resources to recover. While the body is constantly battling in particular areas, it leaves the rest of us susceptible. This reduces our overall immunity and causes imbalances in our mental state. The inflammation too eventually becomes chronic.
Inflammation Can Lead to Obesity and Weight Gain!
Another significant ill-effect of chronic inflammation is weight gain and obesity. To explain this, we need to analyse our body and how it responds to threat repeatedly.
As explained in last week’s blog-post on calories vs. nutrition, our cells prepare to receive both nutrition as well as energy from foods. When they receive only bursts of energy and no nutrition, they get confused. They also get news of the body’s state of ill-health and all the fighting and inflammation that is happening. This causes panic. Now the cells start storing up energy in hopes of expending it in the future when the body is healthy. More and more cells join in and store a lot of energy! This leads to fat accumulation, weight gain and ultimately obesity.
So, if you have weight-loss as a goal in your health plan, it is important to take note of the foods that cause inflammation and avoid them.
Which Foods to Avoid and Why?
Here’s a handy list of 10 foods and food categories that you must avoid if you want to fight inflammation and stay healthy.
It is best to stick to Unprocessed, Low GI, Organic, Whole Foods, and Home Cooked Meals instead. And drink plentiful water. Water will flush out toxins and reduce your chances of incurring inflammation.
- Junk Foods, Refined Carbohydrates and Processed Foods: These foods generally pack-in a lot of sugar that is best avoided.
- Vegetable, Canola or Sunflower Oils: These oils contain saturated and polyunsaturated fats. For more information, read my blog post on the ‘Perfect Oils For Your Pantry’.
- Artificial Sweeteners and Diet Drinks: Frequent intake of artificial sweeteners has been known to have a harmful effect on the gut microbiome causing glucose intolerance as well as inflammation.
- Artificial Additives and Preservatives: This class of foods are found in high percentage in processed foods. Some additives find their way into our food through the food chain, such as fish feeding on plastic dumped in the sea, and pesticides sprayed on crops while they are farmed.
- Dairy: Unfortunately, dairy is a common allergen and intake should be in moderation. Probiotic products within this category have been known to fight inflammation.
- Red Meat: They contain high levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) or inflammation triggering compounds.
- Margarine, Shortening, and Lard: These foods are rich in unhealthy saturated fats.
- Glutenous Foods: The gluten from the foods can irritate the bowel and cause the lining of the intestines to inflame. Repeated use can cause hypersensitivity and lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
- Alcohol: Alcohol has been known to boost immunity when consumed in moderation. However, drinking incessantly can have the opposite effect. It can cause damage to the liver and liver cells, as well as cause inflammation.
- 10. Trans-fats: Highly processed oils and fried or processed foods have large amounts of trans-fats. Trans-fat free foods can be identified by reading the food labels. At restaurants don’t hesitate to ask the right questions about food preparation.