These foods may *seem* healthy, but they could actually cause inflammation in the body. Here’s what to cut from your grocery list for better health.

By Isadora Baum
August 01, 2019
Getty; Cooking Light

You’ve probably heard of inflammation, which is essentially your body’s response to harmful toxins. It can stem from poor diet (think: drinking sugary sodas, eating ultra-processed foods, and too many calories).

Left untreated, inflammation can lead to various diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, and more. So, it’s important to keep inflammation at bay and focus on eating foods that reduce those levels in the body.

And while you might already know that eating too much sugar is bad for inflammation, there are a few healthy foods that are secretly high in inflammatory properties. So, you’ll want to eat them in moderation and watch your intake, while loading up with other anti-inflammatory foods such as fresh produce, healthy fats, and lean proteins. Here are some inflammatory foods to keep in mind on your next grocery trip.

Low-Fat Salad Dressing

“Low-fat dressings are particularly problematic, since they include added sugar, salt and more in place of fat,” says Presicci. Swap the low-fat stuff for full-fat dressing, or whip up your own DIY salad dressing that’s healthy and hits the mark.

Veggie Burgers

“While there are some veggie burgers with real food ingredient lists (things like legumes and veggies), many veggie burgers are filled with processed vegetable oils, gluten and other potentially inflammatory ingredients,” says Presicci. So, they’re not really any better for you than a plain, grass-fed burger. If you are vegan or plant-based, find one that has a clean label or make your own patties from veggies, quinoa, and beans. (We have some great recipes here.)

Wheat or Gluten

While most people can safely eat wheat and other gluten-containing grains (think barley and rye), emerging research suggests wheat may trigger an inflammatory immune response in certain individuals, even in the absence of celiac disease, says EA Stewart, RD.

“To date, there is no FDA-approved test for NCGS (non-celiac gluten sensitivity). A trial of a gluten-free diet (after wheat allergy and celiac disease have been ruled out) under the care of a qualified healthcare professional is the best way to test for NCGS,” she says. Yet, it could definitely be leading to inflammation in the body, so try and manage the amount you eat.

Juice

You might think juice is high in key nutrients, and perhaps some juices are, but they also have lots of sugar and can cause inflammation. “An occasional fresh-pressed fruit juice is fine, but no one should be ‘detoxing’ on multiple glasses of juice every day,” says Stewart.

“While fruit juice does contain beneficial vitamins and antioxidants, it’s also high in sugar, and low in fiber, which can lead to inflammation,” she says. A better bet is to eat whole fruit or drink blended juice that contains mostly vegetables with just a little bit of fruit.

Agave Nectar

Agave has had a health halo as a natural sweetener, but it might be one of the more damaging sugars, since it’s processed and very high in fructose, says Presicci. “Your liver is the only organ that can process fructose, so when you consume too much, it gets overloaded and ends up turning fructose into fat, raising blood triglycerides,” she says. “It can contribute to insulin resistance when consumed regularly and increase risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes,” she adds, so it’s better to nix it.

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