Nourishment or Inflammation? Identifying Foods That Fan the Flames

Inflammatory Foods

Chronic inflammation can have adverse health effects and raise the risk of various medical conditions. The benefits of anti-inflammatory foods may be lessened if you’re also consuming a substantial amount of inflammatory foods. Here are some common contributors to increased inflammation.

Refined Carbohydrates

Not all carbohydrates are detrimental, but refined carbs have the potential to elevate inflammation levels. Studies have indicated that they may lead to increased levels of inflammatory gut bacteria, potentially increasing the risk of developing conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

One study involving young, healthy men who consumed 50g of refined carbs observed elevated blood sugar levels and an increase in specific inflammatory markers.

Common examples of refined carbs include white bread and white pasta. Consider replacing them with whole wheat alternatives to enhance your fiber intake.

Vegetable/Seed Oils

Certain vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, can be notably inflammatory as they contribute to higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids. This can be concerning, especially considering that the standard Western diet is already rich in omega-6 fatty acids and often lacks sufficient omega-3 fatty acids. Using these oils for cooking may further elevate inflammation levels.

Ideally, it’s beneficial to prioritize a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids over omega-6 fatty acids to help maintain inflammation at a manageable level.

Trans Fats

Extensive evidence suggests that trans fats are among the most detrimental dietary components in terms of inflammation. They are highly inflammatory and significantly increase the risk of various health conditions.

Trans fats can reduce levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and have adverse effects on the endothelial cells lining blood vessels, which is a contributing factor to heart disease.

Furthermore, trans fats can elevate inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). In a study, it was observed that women with high CRP levels also consumed substantial amounts of trans fats in their diet.

You can find trans fats in processed foods like margarine, cookies, donuts, crackers, breakfast items, and packaged snacks. Fried foods and fast food are also notorious sources. When checking food labels, be sure to avoid anything containing “partially hydrogenated fats,” as this is a clear indicator of trans fats presence.


Sugar is a highly inflammatory substance and a significant contributor to elevated inflammation levels, often keeping them consistently high.

High-fructose corn syrup is particularly problematic in this regard, mainly because it’s an ingredient added to a wide array of processed foods. Research has demonstrated that a diet high in fructose can induce inflammation in the endothelial cells lining blood vessels, similar to the effect of trans fats, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, both mice and humans on a high-fructose diet have shown increased levels of inflammatory markers. Interestingly, mice on such a diet did not experience as much anti-inflammatory benefit from omega-3 fatty acids.

To sum it up, if you’re already consuming adequate fructose from natural sources like fruits and vegetables, there’s no need to add more from additional sources. Generally, added sugars promote the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, so it’s advisable to limit sugar intake.

Processed Meats

Processed meats have been associated with increased inflammation due to the higher levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) produced during their cooking process. These AGEs have pro-inflammatory properties. Moreover, consuming excessive amounts of processed meat can be a risk factor for various types of cancer, particularly colon cancer.

Processed meats encompass items like bacon, ham, and sausages. Opting for healthier alternatives such as fish, lean protein sources, poultry, or lean cuts of grass-fed beef is advisable to reduce inflammation and promote better overall health.

Foods with MSG

Mono-sodium-glutamate (MSG) is frequently used to enhance the flavor of various foods but can also promote inflammation. It’s a common ingredient in pre-packaged Asian foods, soy sauce, salad dressings, ready-made soups, deli meats, and fast food items.

To reduce your intake of MSG and opt for healthier choices, consider preparing your own soups, salad dressings, and Asian-inspired dishes at home. Although it may require a bit more time and effort, you’ll have the assurance that your meals are MSG-free and better for your health.


I’m a firm believer in the concept of bio-individuality, which means that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. What works for one person may not work for another. While everyone can benefit from reducing the inflammatory foods mentioned above, it’s essential to dig deeper and identify what might be causing inflammation specifically for you. That’s where food sensitivity testing comes in.

For many years, I was eating foods that I believed were healthy, and for most people, they are. However, these foods were not suitable for me. Once I identified and eliminated specific items from my diet, along with other adjustments, my health significantly improved. If you’re curious about your own food sensitivities and how they may be affecting your health, I recommend scheduling a complimentary call to learn more, or click here to learn about the MRT Food Sensitivity test I use with my clients.

Interested in Health Coaching or FDN?  Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® and the DRESS for Health Success® Program are proven methods that have helped thousands of people! To learn more, book a complimentary call.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for medical guidance and assistance tailored to your specific needs.


López-Alarcón, Mardia et al. “Excessive refined carbohydrates and scarce micronutrients intakes increase inflammatory mediators and insulin resistance in prepubertal and pubertal obese children independently of obesity.” Mediators of inflammation vol. 2014 (2014): 849031. doi:10.1155/2014/849031

Spreadbury, Ian. “Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity.” Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy vol. 5 (2012): 175-89. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S33473

Dickinson, Scott et al. “High-glycemic index carbohydrate increases nuclear factor-kappaB activation in mononuclear cells of young, lean healthy subjects.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 87,5 (2008): 1188-93. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1188

Patterson, E et al. “Health implications of high dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated Fatty acids.” Journal of nutrition and metabolism vol. 2012 (2012): 539426. doi:10.1155/2012/539426

Nestel, Paul. “Trans fatty acids: are its cardiovascular risks fully appreciated?.” Clinical therapeutics vol. 36,3 (2014): 315-21. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2014.01.020

Lopez-Garcia, Esther et al. “Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.” The Journal of nutrition vol. 135,3 (2005): 562-6. doi:10.1093/jn/135.3.562

Malakul, Wachirawadee et al. “Naringin ameliorates endothelial dysfunction in fructose-fed rats.” Experimental and therapeutic medicinevol. 15,3 (2018): 31403146.doi:10.3892/etm. 2018. 5759

Ma, X et al. “Ghrelin receptor regulates HFCS-induced adipose inflammation and insulin resistance.” Nutrition & diabetes vol. 3,12 e99. 23 Dec. 2013, doi:10.1038/nutd.2013.41

Ma, Tao et al. “Sucrose counteracts the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil in adipose tissue and increases obesity development in mice.” PloS one vol. 6,6 (2011): e21647. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021647

Uribarri, Jaime et al. “Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association vol. 110,6 (2010): 911-16.e12. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.018

Hammerling, Ulf et al. “Consumption of Red/Processed Meat and Colorectal Carcinoma: Possible Mechanisms Underlying the Significant Association.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition vol. 56,4 (2016): 614-34. doi:10.1080/10408398.2014.972498

Nakanishi, Yuko et al. “Monosodium glutamate (MSG): a villain and promoter of liver inflammation and dysplasia.” Journal of autoimmunity vol. 30,1-2 (2008): 42-50. doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2007.11.016