Top Inflammatory Foods to Avoid and Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Incorporate For a Healthier You

Depending on your situation, inflammation can either be good or bad. When your body is sick or injured, inflammation is your body’s natural way of protecting itself. Inflammation can also stimulate healing and defend itself from foreign invaders.

However, when it comes to chronic inflammation in your body, this can be harmful. Chronic inflammation is linked to all sorts of health disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and many chronic pain disorders.

What’s interesting to note, however, is that the foods and beverages you consume can have a big impact on inflammation. I’ll share some of the foods to avoid that can cause inflammation along with foods that are anti-inflammatory to incorporate more of in your diet below.

Foods to Avoid that Cause Inflammation

White bread and pasta

Let’s start with the refined wheat flours. Refined wheat flours can wreak havoc in your body. This is because these wheat products found in most breads and pastas have been stripped of their slow-digesting fiber and nutrients, which means your body will break down these foods quickly. And when this happens, your blood sugar rises causing a spike in insulin, which leads to inflammation.

Processed meat

Processed meat should be avoided as consumption of this type of meat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers – such as colon and stomach cancer.

Processed meats have higher amounts of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) than any other meats. AGEs are formed during the process of cooking these meats at high temperatures, and this is known to cause inflammatory changes, which can lead to chronic diseases.

Processed meats to avoid include sausage, ham, bacon, beef jerky, smoked meat, and deli meat.

Fried foods

Fried foods can be doing more harm than you realize. A diet rich in fried foods tends to show a higher prevalence of inflammatory markers, which can cause all sorts of long-term health issues, including heart disease and certain cancers.

Foods such as French fries, fried chicken or meat, or even fried snacks such as chips should be avoided. Many of these foods also contain artificial trans fats (often listed as “partially hydrogenated” oils), which are the unhealthiest of fats to consume. Margarine, shortening, and lard tends to also have a lot of these unhealthy fats.

Refined Sugar

In my last article, I talked about refined sugar, why we crave it, and tips to help prevent and/or reduce the intake of this food product.

Refined sugar is in just about every food product out there, mainly in pre-packaged and processed foods, which makes up the vast majority of grocery stores. And the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day!

Sugar is like a drug. When the sugar satisfies our taste buds we want more of it. And overconsumption of refined sugar can lead to inflammation and all sorts of chronic pain disorders as studies have shown.

Drastically reducing intake of refined sugars over a certain period of time has been shown to reduce pain, and some people can even get off painkillers as a result.

Processed Foods

Processed foods like your morning cereal or flavored oatmeal may look healthy, but in reality, these tend to be just the opposite. These foods are linked to inflammation and heart disease. And to make matters worse, they can be made with all sorts of sickening ingredients that shouldn’t be consumed. Here is an article on Readers Digest that highlights what’s in some of these foods, such as bologna, cheese slices, gelatin, rice cakes and more.

Seed and Vegetable Oils

Vegetable and seed oils can be very unhealthy. These oils are often extracted from foods using solvents, such as hexane, which is a component of gasoline.

Common oils to avoid include:

  • Corn
  • Peanut
  • Soybean
  • Sesame
  • Canola
  • Safflower
  • Sunflower

The structure of these highly processed polyunsaturated fatty acids in these oils are prone to oxidation damage. And overconsumption of these oils can cause inflammation as a result of their extremely high omega-6 fatty acid content.

If you are going to cook or consume oil, the better alternatives to go with are virgin olive oil and coconut oil.


As you probably already know, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol is not good for you.

People who drink alcohol in excess tend to have higher inflammatory markers and often they can develop long-term health problems with damage to their organs, and even “leaky gut” in which bacteria moves out of the colon and into the body.

To avoid health problems related to alcohol, limit your consumption to two standard drinks a day for men and one standard drink a day for women.


Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat More Of

One of the most powerful ways to combat inflammation is not from the pharmacy, but rather from choosing the right foods to consume. Choosing the right foods can reduce your risk of long-term health issues, including chronic diseases.

Foods to incorporate more of in your diet include:

  • Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
  • Fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, oranges, cherries, and apples
  • Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and collards
  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, and mackerel

If you are looking for a dietary eating plan that is closely tied to the tenets of anti-inflammatory foods, the Mediterranean diet may be one to consider. Foods that fall under this diet are typically high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, fish, and nuts.

What to Do If You Are Experiencing Chronic Pain

Diet plays a big part in reducing or even eliminating inflammation that can cause chronic pain. But to truly know which foods are causing you the most harm, seeking treatment from an alternative health of functional medicine practitioner in your area can greatly help.

Also, getting treatment from a manual physical therapist in your area who specializes in working with patients experiencing joint or chronic pain such as migraines and back pain, can also be a big help. While a manual physical therapist can’t run tests to determine what the root cause of your disorder(s) may be, he or she can perform techniques that can help re-position or realign your body better. These techniques can ultimately help to ease and reduce the pain you may be experiencing.

Don’t let bad food choices be the cause of inflammation. Reduce your intake of the inflammatory foods and incorporate more of the anti-inflammatory foods mentioned in this article to live and be healthier. And if you are experiencing chronic pain, then reach out to me so I can help you live a healthier pain-free life.

Marge Kalfon, MSPT is the founder of PT by Marge and is a licensed physical therapist in Virginia. She graduated with her Masters of Science in Physical Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in 1992. Since then, she has practiced in a wide variety of settings ranging from large hospitals to small private practices. She has extensive training and experience with a wide variety of manual therapy techniques as well as orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation.