Inflammation is the first domino in a cascade of reactions in the body that leads to chronic illness. Inflammation is caused by lifestyle factors: what we eat, how we move, how much we sleep, and how stressed we are.

Over time, these lifestyle factors can lead to increased levels of inflammation in the body, which manifests itself in health conditions such as increased blood sugar, blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There are some foods that are known to be culprits. These are usually highly processed foods that are either high in sugar or high in fat. Here are some to keep in mind, and for even more healthy tips, check out our list of the 112 most popular sodas, ranked by toxicity.


This sticky substance is more sinister than you might think. While corn syrup itself has been around for decades, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was specially made to be more shelf-stable. While the modifications were a win-win for the food manufacturer; they weren’t so good for our health.

High fructose corn syrup is digested and absorbed by the liver, producing fats that are distributed throughout the body. Excessive consumption of HFCS leads to insulin resistance and weight gain over time.

Lisa Andrews, RD says, “A diet high in fructose and fat can lead to fatty liver and glucose intolerance, along with inflammation and oxidative stress.”

Some research suggests that fructose triggers inflammatory changes at the cellular level. This reaction is highly dose-dependent and HFCS is one of the strongest sources of fructose in our food system!


Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oil, are known to contribute to inflammation and are directly correlated with the risk of chronic illness. Similar to HFCS, trans fat was made to make products more shelf-stable. While the food industry benefited from its storage-saving properties, our health was not affected.

Diets high in trans fats have been linked to increases in markers of inflammation. In particular, these hydrogenated oils increase the vascular markers, which leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke.

Fortunately, trans fats are on the way out. The FDA’s 2019 regulations made it difficult for food manufacturers to use trans fats. Read more here to understand where trans fats may lurk in our food system.

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Omega-6 fats are found in vegetable sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs are found in fats like soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and vegetable oil are all PUFAs. In and of themselves, these foods are not all bad. However, a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids is inherently inflammatory. The omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can actually improve markers of inflammation because omega-3 is inherently anti-inflammatory.

Nicole Stefanow, MS, RDN, says: “Although all omega-fatty acids are part of a healthy diet, not all omega-fatty acids are created equal. Omega-6 fatty acids support the correct cell function in our body, but too much omega-6 from vegetable oils such as soy, corn, and sunflower can contribute to inflammation and inflammation-related diseases. Conversely, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and seafood, have been linked to decreased inflammation and related diseases. “

Related: Should I Eat Omega-6 Fatty Acids?


While many of us recognize alcohol as a poison, we rarely think about the effects of wanting something alcoholic. However, alcohol is a powerful driver of systemic inflammation. The inflammatory response from alcohol starts in the intestines during digestion, but it makes matters worse by impairing the body’s ability to regulate systemic inflammation.

To make matters worse, alcohol affects almost every system in the body, from the brain to the kidneys. Here are the secret side effects of drinking alcohol, says expert.

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Processed foods certainly have a reputation for increasing inflammation, and refined flours are one of the biggest culprits. Refined flours are particularly rich in simple carbohydrates. Compared to their high-fiber, complex-carbohydrate counterparts, a diet high in refined flour has been linked to spikes in blood sugar, weight gain, and an increased risk of chronic illness.

Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes says, “Refined flour is ground and stripped of bran, germs, and nutrients like fiber. Research suggests that refined flour may increase inflammation in intestinal bacteria and increase your risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. Refined grains / flour can also cause blood sugar spikes and increase an inflammatory response. “

Choosing high-fiber carbohydrates are best for long-term health, weight loss, and reducing inflammation. Consider These Low Carbohydrate Options To Reduce Inflammation!

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