Foods That Can Increase Inflammation

Inflammatory Foods

Chronic inflammation can cause a bunch of health effects and make you more likely to develop different health conditions. The positive impact of anti-inflammatory foods can be reduced if you’re also consuming a high amount of inflammatory foods. Here are a few of the worst culprits for increasing inflammation. 

Refined Carbohydrates

Not all carbs are bad, but refined carbs can raise inflammation levels. Research has suggested that they can increase inflammatory gut bacteria levels that can make you more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease and be obese. 

A study involving young, healthy men who ate 50g of refined carbs had higher blood sugar levels, and certain inflammatory markers had also increased. 

White bread and white pasta are common examples of refined carbs. Swap them for whole wheat alternatives to give yourself a fiber boost. 

Vegetable/Seed Oils

Some vegetable oils can be highly inflammatory, including soybean oil. They can contribute to an increase in omega-6 fatty acids. 

Given that the typical Western diet is already full of omega-6 fatty acids and often doesn’t include adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, cooking with these oils may increase inflammation levels even more. 

Ideally, you want to be getting more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 fatty acids to keep inflammation in check. 

Trans Fats

There’s a ton of evidence to say that trans fats are one of the worst things you can eat when it comes to inflammation. They’re highly inflammatory and raise the risk factor for many conditions. 

They can lower “good” HDL cholesterol levels and have adverse effects on endothelial cells in the blood vessels. The latter is one of the risk factors for heart disease. 

They can also raise inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). In one study, women with high CRP levels also consumed large amounts of trans fats in their diet. 

Trans fats are found in processed foods, including margarine, cookies, donuts, crackers, breakfast products, and processed snacks. Fried foods and fast food are also culprits. 

Scan food labels and pass on anything with “partially hydrogenated fats” on the label. This is a big giveaway that trans fats are lurking. 


Sugar is highly inflammatory and is a common culprit for raising inflammation levels and keeping them high. 

High-fructose corn syrup can be a big problem here, not least because it’s added to tons of processed foods. 

Research has shown that a high-fructose diet can lead to inflammation in the endothelial cells in the blood vessels and raise the risk factor for developing heart disease similar to trans fat.

A high-fructose diet has also been linked to increased inflammatory markers in both mice and humans. 

Mice that were given a high-fructose diet didn’t see as much anti-inflammatory effect from omega-3 fatty acids. 

The bottom line? If you’re already getting plenty of fructose from fruits and vegetables, you don’t need to be adding more from elsewhere too. Added sugars, in general, encourage the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. 

Processed Meats

Processed meats are linked to inflammation. They contain more advanced glycation end products (AGEs) as they cook, which can be inflammatory. Eating a lot of processed meat can be a risk factor for certain types of cancer, including colon cancer. 

Processed meats can include bacon, ham, and sausages. Swap processed and fatty meats for fish or lean protein. Poultry and lean cuts of grass-fed beef are good alternatives too.

Foods with MSG

Mono-sodium-glutamate (MSG) is added to a ton of foods to add flavor. It can also encourage inflammation. It’s a common ingredient in pre-prepared Asian foods, soy sauce, salad dressings, pre-prepared soups, deli meats, and fast food. 

If you eat these types of foods regularly, think about making your own soups, salad dressings, and Asian-inspired dishes. It may take a little bit more time, but you’ll know that it’s free from MSG and a much healthier option. 


I am a huge fan of bio-individuality! This means that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. What works for some may not work for others. Everyone can benefit from reducing the inflammatory items mentioned above but to dig a little deeper and see what might be causing inflammation specifically for you, I recommend food sensitivity testing. For years I was eating food that I thought was healthy, and for most of us, it is. It was not for me. Once I took this specific item out of my diet (along with some other things I found), my health improved! Learn more about your food sensitivities by scheduling a complimentary call.

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.


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