Are These Pro-Inflammatory Foods Affecting Your Health?
What if I told you some of the very foods you’re already eating–some we were told are “healthy” are actually pro-inflammatory and ruining your health?
I’m talking inflammation, weight gain…that’s what these foods are doing to you!
Even worse, by eating these foods regularly, they put you on the fast track to disease: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, infertility, sometimes even cancer.
And that’s not what you want, is it?
To get a solid understanding of why pro-inflammatory foods are bad for you, let’s start with what they are.
What are Pro-Inflammatory Foods?
Pro-inflammatory foods are anything your body can’t fully utilize, metabolize, digest, or eliminate…causing waste, debris, or harm to your gut (which makes up 80% of your immune system!).
And guess what? Pro-inflammatory foods are found EVERYWHERE. In most foods at the grocery store, menus at a restaurant, and even worse–your own kitchen!
I bet if you look inside your pantry and read one of the food labels, you’d be shocked to see what’s in some of the food you’re eating.
So Who are the Pro-Inflammatory Culprits?
I know this might be hard to believe, because you’ve probably read or been told some of these are healthy for you.
I’m here to tell you the truth.
And that is, the pro-inflammatory foods causing harm to your body are:
- Added sugars
- Poor-quality oils
- Soy products
I know this may be shocking for you, so hear me out–and let’s dive into each.
Pro-inflammatory Food #1: Gluten
You probably grew up hearing you should be eating whole grain wheat for the fiber. Hey, I did, too.
What you DIDN’T hear is: gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt, causes a ton of inflammation in your body…giving you belly fat, unnecessary weight, and a sick, leaky gut.
Gluten damages the good, important microbiome in your intestinal tract, leading to inflammation that causes a “leaky gut.” And guess what this systemic inflammation causes? Obesity. And remember, a weakened gut leaves you at risk for every modern-day disease out there.
The truth is, our bodies aren’t adapted to eating gluten, especially in large quantities. So, your gut has no idea what to do with wheat. Eating them is like putting kerosene in your gas tank instead of gasoline. Ouch.
Gluten robs you of nutrients. It saps your body of the nutrients it needs and interferes with absorption of vitamins and minerals from food, leaving your cells starving. That means if you eat gluten–even after all the healthy food in the world–it won’t matter. You won’t reap the nutritional benefits, and you’ll actually age more rapidly.
Gluten spikes your blood sugar. That’s right, your body turns gluten into sugar…which constantly raises your blood sugar. This puts you at risk for obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.
Even worse, it makes you tired throughout the day. No wonder you get sleepy at 2pm if you have gluten for lunch!
Which is why the gluten-free diet is so popular these days. People are finally waking up to the truth–that gluten poisons your body.
But don’t do what I did when I went “gluten-free,” and that’s go overboard with gluten-free products. Just because it doesn’t have gluten, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Anything with potato starch or cornstarch will zap the energy out of you.
Luckily, there are fabulous gluten-free and even grain-free substitutes, like almond flour, coconut flour, cassava flour, and arrowroot for baking. Squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and zucchini are all ingredients you can use to create hearty, satisfying meals.
Pro-Inflammatory Food #2: Added Sugars
There are SO many remarkable benefits to cutting out sugar. One of them is waking up energized in the morning from a night of restful, undisturbed sleep.
You also defy aging and get glowing skin, lose weight, and so much more.
To be honest, I like sweets. If I could, I would be living on Paleo baked goods. Really, I would!
Instead, I keep sugar to a minimum and I’m smart about what kind of sugar I eat.
My Sugar Checklist
- Insulin Level: How will this sugar affect my insulin levels?
- Hormones: How does this sugar affect my hormones? I’m talking about leptin, the guy who regulates your hunger. Leptin is the master “hunger hormone,” and you don’t want to mess with him! When leptin gets out of whack, you have a hard time dealing with cravings and controlling your weight. You can also become “resistant” to leptin, which creates a metabolic mess…
- Fructose Percentage: How much of this sugar is made up of fructose? I’m not a fan of fructose. It messes with your blood sugar levels and your leptin levels to make you hungry! Which is why I say agave is a “no” sweetener–it has a high fructose percentage. But don’t confuse this with fructose in fruit. Fruit is packed with water, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Just pick fruits with less fructose, like berries, cherries, avocado, and tomatoes.
So what makes sugar bad? Beyond making you gain and keep weight, sugar also…
- Feeds cancer cells (this should be enough to cut it out!)
- Causes hypoglycemia
- Causes gastro-intestinal issues, including increased risk of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Decreases your absorption of protein and minerals
- Causes food allergies
- Causes inflammation
- Gets you addicted to eating MORE sugar!
Remember, we’re talking about added sugars. The ones that show up in every foods like mustard, salad dressings, deli meats, dried fruit, nut butters, and SO much more.
Here’s a long list of no-no added sugars: agave, agave nectar, barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane can crystals, cane juice, cane sugar, caramel, corn sweeteners, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, fructose, date sugar, dehydrated cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, galactose, glucose, glucose solids, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, molasses, palm sugar, rapadura, raw cane sugar, rice syrup, saccharose, sorghum syrup, sucanat, turbinado and many others
As a rule of thumb, if it has an –ose, or –tol, it’s a toxic sugar you must avoid!
And here’s a list of added “dead-to-you” sugars: Acesulfame K/Acesulfame Potassium (Sweet One, Sunett), Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), Saccharine (Sweet’N Low), Stevia that’s white/bleached (Truvia, Sun crystals), and Sucralose (Splenda).
And don’t think for one second you’re safe with diet soda.
Recently, researchers took sucralose (a popular sweetener in diet soda) and tested them on stem cells in a Petri dish. After only 12 days, they checked that Petri dish, and were shocked..they found more genes showing fat creation and inflammation! Plus, they noticed more fat droplets in the cells themselves, which could contribute to metabolic dysfunction.
Artificial sugars can mess with your brain and nervous system…and definitely won’t make you drop any pounds. That’s because as soon as you taste them, your body releases insulin BEFORE it realizes there isn’t actually sugar (glucose) there. This makes you crave more glucose, and makes you hungry. So, you may end up overeating, and gaining weight!
So what sugars can you have?
I like to keep it clean. Any added sugar is a once-in-a-while treat. The sweeteners I stick to for baking, cooking, or adding are sugars derived from nature as much as possible–and not a factory.
My “YES” Sweeteners include: Coconut, date, palm sugar, raw honey, maple syrup, 100% fruit jam, apple juice concentrate, apple sauce, dates, smashed bananas, blackstrap molasses, and Green Leaf Stevia.
Some Paleo people are far stricter–I try to be reasonable and practical. It’s great to have options, right?
Just remember to be totally aware of how the sugar is made, how our body processes it, and how much is in whatever you’re eating.
Pro-inflammatory Food #3: Poor-Quality Oils
You wouldn’t use low-quality makeup that damages your skin or gives your allergies, would you?
So why would you put poor-quality oils in your body?
Consuming bad oils is like putting the regular gas into a diesel car. And I’m here to call out the bad oils you probably think are good for you.
Like vegetable oils, for example. The sound of “vegetable oil” sounds healthy, doesn’t it? It’s got to be made from vegetables! Let me tell you, the stuff is crud.
Same goes for canola oil, sunflower, and safflower oils. Oh, and don’t forget corn, cottonseed, palm kernel, peanut, and soybean oils and margarine. All bad, bad, bad.
But bad can mean a variety of things. So I’ll dive into each:
Damaged: A lot of oils you’re buying from the grocery store are probably already poison. The light-colored bottles don’t help–light causes the oil to oxidize and become damaged. It would be like peeling a banana and leaving it on the shelf. The banana would oxidize and turn brown…and become damaged. Oil is the exact same thing! When it’s exposed to heat and light in the grocery store, they’re like Kryptonite to Superman–stealing our strength and leaving us powerless.
Processed: How much oil is really in a sunflower? Think about it. They’ve got to do a lotto get some oil out of that. It’s not really an oily plant, which means the oil itself is highly processed.
Rancid: Rancid fat means a rancid body. This means inflammation, which if you are feeling any aches or pains, have a health condition weighing on your, or are just plain pooped out all the time…you’re probably experiencing inflammatory problems. Oh, and it’s not helping you lose weight, either. I highly suggest a simple blood test C Reactive Protein (more on that here.)
Wonky: Building off on “rancidity,” the biggest reason that these oils create inflammation and other health issues is because the Omega 6 (pro-inflammatory oil) is much higher than Omega 3 oils (anti-inflammatory oil). In fact, the numbers are complete skewed–and hence, wonky! So, pay attention to these ratios.
All these kinds of oils are aging us and giving us disease. And, they’re making us fat!
Millions of years ago, diets were abundant in seafood and high in Omega-3 fatty acids. They were also low in omega-6 seed oils. In fact, our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats of roughly 1:1. This is the ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3.
Guess what today’s ratio in our modern diets? It ranges from 15:1 and 22:1! That’s WAY off, if you ask me. We’re consuming 20 times too much of inflammatory oils!
Back then, they didn’t have all these oils and cereal grains. With the onset of the industrial revolution about 140 years ago, came the birth of these new age oils causing human suffering.
Plus, an analysis published in 2010 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded a relationship between saturated fat and heart disease or stroke. This study pooled together data from 21 unique studies that included almost 350,000 people–11,000 developed cardiovascular disease–tracked for an average of 14 years.
But you don’t have to let these garbage oils affect you. Don’t let your fats and oils become another pro-inflammatory food. Which if you remember, a pro-inflammatory food is: “Anything your body can’t fully utilize, metabolize, eliminate or digest–causing waste, debris, or harm to your gut.”
Instead, eat these HIGH quality oils:
- Avocados: Full of monounsaturated fats, which are incredibly healthy. Add some in your salad, mash it up and use as a dip for veggies, or just eat it with a spoon.
- Butter and ghee: Butter from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and organic, grass-fed ghee (also known as clarified butter with milk solids removed) are fantastic cooking oils! They stay stable at high heat. And not to mention, they taste absolutely delicious. (If you’re losing weight on my Bone Broth Diet, or super-sensitive to milk proteins, you may want to stick to ghee–it has the milk proteins removed.)
- Coconut fats: Incorporate coconut through coconut butter, flakes, coconut milk, and fresh coconut. I like to add a little bit of coconut fat to my coffee for an extra boost!
- Nuts and nut butters: Nuts can get tricky, and I’ve talked about this on the Dr. Oz show before. I recommend almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts (BEST Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of all!), pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. That gives you a ton to choose from, right? Just remember to keep them in moderation. Oh, and peanuts and peanut butter are off the table. They’re actually a legume and are very inflammatory!
- Oils: So what oils should you have? Try avocado oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, walnut oil, and olive oil (for drizzling only! Don’t heat or cook too high as it doesn’t stay stable at high heat.)
- Seeds: You can sprinkle your salad with pine nuts, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds. They’re fabulous Paleo choices and taste great! They’ll give any salad some texture.
- Animal fats: Don’t throw away that extra fat! Animal fats get you really healthy when they come from a healthy animal–organic, grass-fed, pasture raised. If you’re worried about heart disease, worry more about these oils than these healthy fats! Research shows us that inflammation is like charred glass on our vessels causing heart attacks–not healthy fats. Some examples are tallow (beef fat), lamb fat, duck fat, and schmaltz (chicken fat). Oh, did I mention it makes anything you use it for taste rich and decadent? Try sauteéing some veggies and smell and taste the difference!
Pro-inflammatory Food #4: Soy Products
I have a confession.
Back in college, I used to be obsessed with Boca burgers and those rubber links called tofurkey dogs. I used to bring them all the time to picnics–my poor friends! But I thought I was doing them a favor. After all, I wasn’t called the “Supreme Goddess of Nutrition” for nothing.
Well, it wasn’t until I found out the truth about soy–and what pro-inflammatory foods are–that I healed my endometriosis (awful cramps every month that kept me practically bedridden). Once I got rid of all those pro-inflammatory foods, I healed myself completely and looked and felt my very BEST.
And here’s the thing: Soy–just like gluten, sugar, and poor quality oils–is a pro-inflammatory food.
Now, you may have heard or read that soy is “healthy.” And quite frankly, it’s promoted as health food. But just like all the other health myths you’ve been led to believe…guess what? You’ve been totally misled about soy.
Plus, soy is found in every packaged, processed food in our modern world. Did you know the “beef” tacos at Jack in the Box contain a ton of soy? Talk about mystery meat!
And pick up any boxed or wrapped food at the grocery store. You’ll see soybean oil, soy flour, soy isolate, or soy lecithin as one of the ingredients–and probably in foods you would never expect. Which is why when you’re grocery shopping, you gotta play detective and find out what you’re REALLY putting in your body.
Okay, so you know soy is bad. But what exactly does it do to our bodies? To put it bluntly…
- Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function…causing infertility and breast cancer (!!!) in women. If you need more reasons to quit soy, here are more…
- Men, listen up. If you drink soymilk (1 cup/day), you could have a 50% lower sperm count than men who don’t drink soymilk!
- Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 20,000 more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies with milk-based formula. Infants taking soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day!
- Soy contains phytic acid, which cuts absorption of calcium, magnesium, and zinc–all minerals your body needs to stay healthy
- Processing soy (like the soy you get in soy burgers, hot dogs, etc.) results in the formation of lysinoalanine and carcinogenic nitrosamines (got that?)–both toxic stuff your body does NOT need!
- Eating soy increases your body’s need for B12, Vitamin D (which too many of us are low in)
- MSG, a neurotoxin, is formed during soy processing
- Women consuming the equivalent of 2 cups of soymilk a day provide the estrogen equivalent of one birth control pill
…and there’s so much more!
Bottom line is, soy leaves makes your gut sick, and fuels inflammation.
If you’re thinking, Hasn’t soy been consumed safely in Asia for years?
Here’s the best answer to that:
- Asians don’t consume as much soy as you think. Average soy consumption in China is 10 grams (2 teaspoons) and about 30 to 60 grams in Japan. That’s not much! Soy is used as a condiment, not as a meal of replacement of meat like we do.
- The soy we eat is HIGHLY processed. Whereas, soy products in Asian countries are fermented and unprocessed. The fermentation makes quite a difference. Fermentation neutralizes the pro-inflammatory properties in soybeans.
And what if you’re vegetarian?
If you absolutely must have soy, it’s important to keep it as natural and unprocessed as possible. It’s also important to keep it fermented. That means you should look for:
- Unprocessed tofu
Make sure it’s all non-GMO, plant-based food!
Otherwise, get soy out of your life for good. Opt for (unsweetened) almond milk and grass-fed beef burgers. It’s better for you, and tastes a WHOLE lot better!
Now you know all the pro-inflammatory foods (that’s gluten, sugar, poor quality oils, and soy), why they’re bad for you and what they do to your body…hopefully it makes it easier for you to cut them out.
How to Easily Cut These Pro-Inflammatory Foods Out of Your Diet For Good
If you’re having trouble cutting them out, and you’re looking for restaurant-grade recipes without any of these foods…check out my Quick Start Kit. I’ll show you how to eat a clean diet your body, taste buds and your skinny jeans will love!
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!