Inflammatory foods are a sponge for body fat. When our body is dealing with chronic, long-lasting inflammation, weight loss is nearly impossible. Avoiding the foods that trigger inflammation is one of the best things you can do if you want to lose weight.
Inflammatory Foods and Weight Gain
It doesn't matter if you're 25 or 85, inflammation is bad for you and closely associated with:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- auto-immune diseases
- digestive conditions
- chronic sinusitis
Most people have no idea how good they could feel if they only ate fewer inflammatory foods.
Unfortunately, inflammatory foods are everywhere. It's hard to go grocery shopping, out to dinner at a restaurant or even on vacation without overdosing on inflammatory foods.
Take a quick inventory of your diet from today. Have you eaten many inflammatory foods?
If you're not sure or don't know what's inflammatory and what's not, don't worry. I've got a list below of foods toward the bottom of this post that you should avoid.
Under that is a list of foods that are anti-inflammatory, which you can eat freely.
But first, let's take a look at a typical diet that loaded with inflammatory foods - and how they connect to weight gain.
Inflammatory Foods and Dieting
In the 15 years I've worked with clients, most of them have come to me on the tail end of a diet that didn't work. Actually, most people start working with me after they've tried several diets - none of which have made a difference. They're frustrated because they've counted calories and fat grams for months or years, only to plateau or gain weight.
Bottom Line: It doesn't matter how many calories you eat. If they come from inflammatory foods you will not lose weight.
When we're inflamed, our bodies' natural response is to work against weight loss. Excessive body fat is not only undesirable, but it's also unhealthy - especially through the belly area where it's most dangerous. When people need to lose weight, one of the first things they do is diet. Diets might provide a very short term quick fix, but it won't help the real issue that could be packing on the pounds: inflammation. Inflammatory foods are a sponge for body fat.
Symptoms of Inflammation
In addition to not being able to lose weight, inflammation presents itself in a number of ways - all of which can impact our health.
To be clear, the type of inflammation you should be concerned about is chronic inflammation, not acute. Acute is short-term, like the way a paper cut on your finger becomes red a little swollen. That's a normal and good bodily response.
Chronic inflammation is harmful and long lasting. Chronic inflammation extends far, far beyond everyday aches and pains. Ongoing acid reflux, chronic indigestion, recurrent sinus infections, allergies, type 2 diabetes - and yes, arthritis, are all signs that your body is experiencing some level of inflammation.
In fact, obesity itself is a cause of chronic low-grade inflammation. I'm not a doctor, but my guess is if you're chronically injured, sick, fatigued or run down, inflammation is certainly at play. Your goal should be to not just reduce the symptoms of inflammation, but eliminate the cause. One way to do that is through the foods you eat.
Eating healthy vs dieting
Just because something has a healthy-sounding claim on the label, doesn't mean it's good for you. This is called "health washing" - and it's one of the big reasons people end up dieting on inflammatory foods.
One of the biggest pitfalls my clients have had before reaching out to me is they a drawn to diet foods - or foods that make a promise of being lower in fat, diet, filled with flavor but not calories...you get the gist.
Others simply count their calories and don't pay any attention to what's in their foods. Regardless, we've all got to start eating healthy at home point, or inflammation will take control.
A typical day of eating inflammatory foods might look like:
- Breakfast: Coffee or juice and a bagel, toast or cereal
- Lunch: Soda (diet or regular), sandwich, wrap, tacos or salad with dressing
- Dinner: Spaghetti, burgers, potatoes or rice, (hopefully) a vegetable
If you're reading this right now, your diet may not be as filled with inflammatory foods as this, but let me breakdown why a few of these foods that might seem so innocent are actually inflammatory.
Why is coffee inflammatory?
I'll start with this as most of you are probably scratching your heads because coffee is so healthy, right? To some extent, it's healthy in that it contains a lot of great polyphenols (plant nutrients) that do our body good. There is no doubt about that. But coffee is also very acidic. Anything that creates more acidity in an already inflamed body will make things more inflamed. If you need a boost from caffeine, shift gears to green tea - matcha if you can! Green tea contains a nutrient called l-theanine, which helps to promote calm alertness without the jitters of coffee. I love it!
But diet soda doesn't have calories!
Diet soda is probably one of the worst things you can put in your body - especially if you're concerned about inflammation. In fact, with or without any sort of inflammatory effect, diet sodas are closely correlated to weight gain that weight loss. Think twice before drinking this stuff! Read my article on artificial sweeteners to get more information about how detrimental it is on our body. Diet soda, not unlike regular soda, is very acidic.
Like coffee, when our body is already inflamed and we add foods or beverages that increase acidity, our body becomes a wild fire of inflammation. Instead of diet soda or regular soda, opt for sparkling water with a splash of your favorite juice, or a little lemon juice.
Bread, bread, bread...
Sandwiches, wraps, flour tortillas, buns, pasta and even pizza crust... What they all have in common is enriched flour from wheat. Enriched flour is a refined carbohydrate at its finest - and a big promoter of inflammation. "Enriched" means that the wheat has been stripped down to its bare bones, only to have some vitamins pumped in on the backend.
Research has shown that refined wheat or flour is incredibly inflammatory, and can create permeability in our gut. Another way of saying this is wheat can put small holes in our intestines that make it easy for toxins to seep out, causing an autoimmune response, creating more inflammation. Some people have no idea that they have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. You can read more about that here.
From Salad Dressing to Sugar
Salads are a big hit for lunch or dinner, whether you're at home or work, and a great opportunity to get a good amount of fiber, vegetables protein and fat into your diet. The problem is't the vegetables, the lettuce or the protein - it's usually the dressing! Dressings almost always contain rancid fat that trigger inflammation right away.
If you're buying a salad dressing with any of the following ingredients on the label, put them back on the shelf.
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
Look for a salad dressing that is made with olive oil instead, or make your own. Here is a free download to my 1-Day Detox. This detox includes a recipe for my Cleanse Dressing. It's simple, anti-inflammatory, and great for any salad or vegetable dip.
Salad dressing is also a haven for sugar. Needless to say, sugary foods should be taken off the table, or at least minimized as much as possible while you're getting your inflammation under control. Even after you have your inflammation under control, keep sugar to a minimum. We really don't need a lot and it's so addictive!
Inflammatory foods you should avoid
Some foods that are well known to cause inflammatory responses in the body include:
- Refined Sugar and Corn Syrup: juices, sodas, sports drinks, candy, pastries, sugary cereals, unhealthy "healthy-sounding" foods, like cereal/energy bars
- Wheat and gluten: bread, pasta, pastries, most cereals
- Artificial Sweeteners: including sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Sweet-n-Low), ace-k, saccharin: diet sodas and just about anything labeled as "sugar free"
- Chemical Food Additives: especially MSG: in many savory foods like snack chips, gravies, lunch meats, soups
- Trans Fats: labeled as partially hydrogenated oils or Crisco
- Vegetable Oils: corn, canola and soybean
- Processed Meats: hot dogs and luncheon meats
- Alcohol: wine, beer, liquor...any of it can spike an inflammatory response
Anti-inflammatory foods you should eat
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids: either by supplement or from fish like salmon or seeds like fresh ground flax
- Fresh Vegetables: especially leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
- Fresh Fruits: especially lower GI fruits like berries, green apples, cherries and plums
- Nuts & Seeds: raw, and with the exception of peanuts
- Clean Protein: Lean grass fed meats and free range poultry
- Water: lots of it, with lemon, lime, cucumber, mint leaves or any other flavor you love
- Herbs, Spices and Herbal Teas: camomile tea, peppermint tea, turmeric and ginger
- Supplements: probiotics, magnesium glycinate and vitamin C (see my personal favorites here)
I hope this post helped. If you have any further questions about inflammation, please leave a comment here!
Check out The Belly Burn Plan. It's my book and a complete guide to balancing hormones, eating right for your body type and reducing inflammation.
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