5 Foods That Cause Inflammation

From Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS

If you’re trying to eat a healthy diet that is not only good for your waistline, but also good for your overall health, then you definitely want to be aware of imposter “healthy” ingredients. These foods are seemingly good for you because they pop up in organic or all-natural products, or foods that have low calorie or sugar counts. But don’t be fooled.

The five following ingredients can cause a slew of adverse healthy reactions, from digestive distress to cancer.

Your best bet? Steer clear of packaged foods with ingredient lists as much as possible, and opt, instead, for the real, whole foods that your body was built for.


Carrageenan is a “natural” food ingredient that has been derived from red algae or seaweeds since the 1930s. Although carrageenan adds no nutritional value or flavor, its unique chemical structure makes it useful as a binder, thickening agent and stabilizer in a wide variety of foods and healthcare products.

Various sources claim that many individuals experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms ranging from mild bloating to irritable bowel syndrome to severe inflammatory bowel disease, have noticed that eliminating carrageenan from their diets leads to profound improvements in their gastrointestinal health. According to The Cornucopia Institute, “Animal studies have repeatedly shown that food-grade carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumors.”

Look out for carrageenan in food items like nitrite-free turkey cold cuts, organic yogurt, plant-based milk and ice creams, as well as baby formula.

Vegetable Oils

The term “vegetable oil” can easily cause you to assume that all oils in this category must be healthy. If olive and coconut oil have so many health-boosting properties, all plant-derived oils must be healthy, too, right?

Wrong. Oils including canola, sunflower and safflower oil must be healthy. Vegetable oils like canola oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil, along with margarine, are highly inflammatory and not healthy by any stretch. This is because they are high in omega 6 fats, which are healthy in small doses, but inflammatory in larger amounts. Additionally, many of these oils are made from GMO plants. In fact, NPR reported that over 90 percent of the canola plants that canola oil comes from are genetically modified.

When it comes to including healthy fats in your diet, consuming the wrong types and amounts may wind up interfering with appetite regulation, mood, hormone production, and digestion—all of which can keep you from losing those last 10 pounds or seeing the health results you’re looking for. When vegetable oils are used in processed foods—even healthy ones—these oils may also become oxidized, or rancid, which can contribute to inflammation throughout the entire body, further disrupting your hormones and metabolism.

Artificial Sweeteners

Most people are aware that too many added sugars in the diet can lead to all kinds of major health problems. Unfortunately, many of those people then turn to artificial sweeteners, foolishly believing that that you can satisfy your sweet tooth with no calories, no guilt, a thinner waistline, and better health. But this is so far from the truth.

Of all the metabolism death foods, artificial sweeteners, including aspartame and sucralose, are probably the most deceiving and harmful. Aspartame is actually linked to dozens of adverse health effects, including accelerated aging due to free radical damage. Another scientific study evaluated the effect of diet soda consumption on rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes in over 6,000 participants. It was found that the consumption of just one diet soda per day significantly increased the risk for increased waist circumference and weight gain.

Still craving something sweet? I recommend natural sweeteners like raw honey and stevia in moderation.

Soy Protein

Many people turn to soy as a “healthy” protein source, especially if they are vegetarian or vegan. However, unless you consume an organic, fermented version like natto, soy can be very destructive to human health.

Aside from the fact that unfermented soy is full of phytoestrogens that can increase risk for breast cancer, cervical cancer and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the other major problem with the soy that is commonly found in foods like soy milk and soy protein is that it’s not the traditionally grown crop of Japan. The majority of soy that you find in in grocery stores is actually genetically modified, which grossly impacts its nutritional benefit. In fact, over 90 percent of the soy grown in the United States is genetically modified to withstand applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup.

Fat-Free & Low-Fat Milk

Whether we’re talking about what you put in your morning coffee or tea, your homemade dessert recipes or your daily smoothies, it’s time to stop being afraid of full-fat dairy.

A 2016 study published in The American Journal of Nutrition makes a strong case for eating it instead of its low-fat dairy counterparts. Researchers studied more than 18,000 women and found that consuming more full-fat dairy was associated with less weight gain — but this was not true for low-fat dairy consumption. One theory behind the science is that eating full-fat dairy helps people feel fuller longer. In addition, full fat dairy contains the necessary fat to balance the natural sugar content of dairy products, which helps keep blood sugar levels more stable. A 2016 study out of Tufts University looked at the effects of full fat dairy on 3,333 adults between the ages of 30 and 75, who did not have diabetes, and they found that consuming full-fat dairy products was associated with a lower incidence of diabetes.

In addition to choosing full-fat dairy over reduced- or no-fat versions, be sure to always choose organic dairy. Research shows that organic milk has a much healthier fat profile than conventional dairy. In a 2013 Washington State University study looking at 400 samples, organic milk was shown to have a healthier ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

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All content on The New Potato (even when supplied by a medical professional) is intended for educational and conversational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider before beginning any new diet, exercise regime, or wellness routine.