14 Inflammatory Foods That May Be Causing Your Weight Gain — And 5 Things You Can Do About It

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Gaining weight seems so very easy. And, losing weight can be so very difficult. 

That’s because it’s not always as simple as calories in and calories out when it comes to weight gains and losses. 

The types of foods we consume are not only a contributing factor in annoying weight gain, but they may be harming our health in other ways as well. 

Some foods can set off a domino effect inside your body that can, weight gain aside, essentially cause your body to attack itself. 

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to a perceived threat. And, this is great when you scrape your knee, sprain your ankle, or come in contact with, say…a coronavirus…but, there are also various foods that can be seen as a threat and thus cause an overactive (inflammatory) response as well.

So, if you’re having trouble shedding pounds or find that you’re accumulating pounds all too easily, it may be that your diet is the culprit! 

Check out the following 14 foods. If these are go-tos in your diet, they may be causing chronic inflammation and thus wreaking havoc on your health and waistline. 

And, though we’re giving you the bad news first, be sure to check out the good news at the end of this list and discover the ways you can reduce inflammation and promote overall health and weight loss! 


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Inflammation And Weight Gain

When there is chronic inflammation, or an ongoing state of inflammation in the body, it not only becomes nearly impossible to lose weight, gaining weight becomes increasingly easy. 

This happens in a few ways: 

  • Inflammation can interfere with the hormones that signal to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat, thus causing you to overeat. 
  • Inflammation can damage the gut lining, leading to what is referred to as “leaky gut,” a condition linked with weight gain. 
  • In the case of chronic inflammation, the body can become resistant to insulin, thus demanding the pancreas to release more of it and thereby cause extra (unwanted) fat storage. 

And, as we mentioned earlier, what you eat may be causing this inflammation that is contributing to weight gain.

So, which foods should you avoid, and what can you do to reduce inflammation? 


Weight Gain Inducing Inflammatory Foods 


1- Refined Flour

Refined flour, and more specifically refined carbohydrates, trigger inflammatory responses within the body. 

The refining process in these foods involves the removal of fiber, which would normally be used by the body for controlling blood sugar and boosting the good bacteria housed within your gut. 

Refined flour not only triggers inflammatory responses in general, but it also increases the bad bacteria within your gut, thereby increasing the risk of weight gain and bowel diseases, both of which also contribute to inflammation. 

In other words, refined flour and carbohydrates can cause a seemingly never ending cycle of inflammation and health concerns that contribute to inflammation.  


2- Refined Sugar

Added or refined sugars like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are found in countless foods…more than you’d think! 

These sugars are known to cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to disease. 

In animal studies, the consumption of these types of sugars has led to various cancers and insulin resistance both of which were attributed to inflammation due to refined sugar consumption. 

Even natural sugars like fructose, which is found in fruits, when consumed in large amounts can contribute to inflammation. 

Candies, sodas, pastries, and cereals are all filled with refined sugars that cause inflammation. 


3- Artificial Sweeteners

Just as detrimental as refined sugars are artificial sweeteners. These types of sweeteners are known to alter the good to bad bacteria balance within the gut thus triggering inflammatory responses. 

What’s worse, and frightening if you ask me, is the history of some of these artificial sweetening agents.

Remember, artificial means fake, plain and simple. And, knowing that some of these sweeteners were discovered in a lab by “accident” when scientists were aiming for an entirely different outcome (such as an ulcer treatment in the case of aspartame), increases the likelihood of such adverse effects on the body. 

Though considered “safe to consume” by the FDA, artificial sweeteners should be avoided at all costs, as these man made ingredients are unable to be processed by the body and can thereby  cause disease and harm through chronic inflammation. 


4-  Vegetable Oils

Vegetable oils are often overlooked as many tend to think, “oh, I don’t cook with vegetable oil, so I’m okay.” But, consider these two facts: 

1- Vegetable oil is found in chips, sauces, dressings, breads, etc. 

2- Vegetable oils include soy, corn (canola), safflower, sunflower, and palm oils 

These oils are all high in omega-6 fatty acids which are known to cause inflammation. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are recommended as a healthy fat to counteract and reduce inflammation within the body.


5- Fried Foods

As we just looked at the inflammatory woes of vegetable oils, it’s probably not a surprise to see fried foods next on the list. 

Not only are fried foods generally cooked in inflammation-causing vegetable oils, these types of foods also contain a compound that is formed when cooked at high temperatures that increases inflammation. 


In fact, studies have shown that when people omit fried foods and processed meats from their diets, inflammation decreases within their body.


6- Processed Meats

Processed meats include items such as hot dogs, deli meats, sausage, jerky, and bacon. 

Not only are these types of meats generally made from red meats that are loaded with saturated fat (an inflammatory fat), but they also contain something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). 

These inflammatory compounds are formed when meats are cooked at extremely high temperatures, dried, smoked, and pasteurized. 

Oftentimes processed meats are also made or injected with artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives that are all known inflammation contributors. 

Processed meats are specifically linked to colon cancer as a result of chronic inflammation. 


7- Grain-Fed Meats

Consuming chicken, beef, or pork can all cause inflammation when these meat products are grain-fed. 

Grain-fed animals are generally pumped full of antibiotics which helps keep them “healthy” and hormones to speed up their rate of growth. 

When we eat these products, such hormones and antibiotics cause an overreaction on the part of our immune system…aka an inflammatory response. 

These meats are also higher in omega-6 fatty acids due to their grain and soy intake, compounding the inflammatory effects on our bodies when we eat them. 


8- Dairy

While dairy products like milk, yogurt, and some cheeses have long been heralded as healthy diet staples, their saturated fat content can be a cause of chronic inflammation, 

Some studies have even shown that full fat dairy products can decrease the levels of beneficial bacteria within the gut, thus destroying the agents used to fight inflammation. 

The sugar content of many dairy products is also something to be wary of, as these sugars are contributors of inflammation. 


9- Alcohol 

One or two drinks, depending on the alcoholic beverage, won’t put you in inflammation danger territory. In fact, practices like drinking a glass of red wine regularly are known to boost heart health. 

But, when we’re talking about two or more drinks, or sugar-laden cocktails that contain more additives than alcohol, these can be detrimental to your health by causing inflammation. 

When you consume too much alcohol, toxins are created as your body attempts to break down the booze. And, these toxins can then lead to chronic inflammation as well as damage your liver and immune system.


10- Artificial Food Additives

Unfortunately, food isn’t always, well, food, anymore. 

In other words, not everything known as food should be called food. 

Artificial colorings and flavorings that have found their way into what is referred to as food here in America are really nothing more than petroleum based additives that are used to thicken or hold together certain products. 

Cereals, candies, and ice cream for instance all contain additives (coloring, flavoring, and emulsifying agents) that are linked to chronic inflammation, hormone disruption, hyperactivity, weight gain, and much more. 


11- Trans Fat

Trans fats are completely man made. Yet, trans fats like partially hydrogenated oils are found in more and more foods.

As they aren’t natural, trans fats are unable to be processed accurately by the body. 

Your body is designed to digest, but when it encounters something foreign, like trans fats, this stimulates an inflammatory response. 

And, per the Mayo Clinic, “these trans fats can cause inflammation by damaging the cells in the lining of blood vessels.”

Some foods to avoid due to their trans fat content: deep fried fast foods, donuts, cookies, and muffins 


12- Saturated Fats

Another fat to avoid is saturated fat. Studies show that saturated fats can cause inflammation in fat tissue within the body. 

And, the more saturated fat you consume, the bigger this fat tissue gets. As these fat cells grow larger, they then lead to inflammation throughout your body (systemic inflammation). 

Typical junk foods like candy and chips, and go-to fast food items like burgers and pizza are all high in inflammation-increasing saturated fats. 


13- Gluten

Gluten has made it into the headlines the last decade or so due to the recognition of the potential for gluten allergies or intolerance in some people. 

But, you don’t have to have a gluten allergy for your body to experience inflammation due to gluten.

Many store bought breads contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that acts as a bonding agent to hold these foods together and maintain their shape. 

The problem is, many of these breads are now made with a few shortcuts, or rather incorporate lab made processes that allow for shortcuts. 

When the fermentation process of yeast is shortened in these practices, the starches and gluten that the yeast normally would “pre-digest” for you remain, thus creating inflammation in your digestive tract as your body attempts to digest the gluten. 


14- Fast Foods

If the methods of preparation (as we mentioned above in deep fried foods) aren’t inflammatory enough, even the packaging most fast foods are wrapped in can cause inflammation. 

Most fast food packaging contains phthalates. And, this chemical (similar to BPA) is absorbed by the foods (or rather leached into the foods) and then becomes toxic to your body as you eat it. 

These chemical toxins are known as endocrine disruptors as they interfere with your body’s hormones, potentially causing health concerns and even disease. 


Reducing Inflammation

If you’re experiencing weight gain due to chronic inflammation, the good news is you can do something about it! 

Try implementing the following 5 practices or solutions to reduce inflammation for both weight loss and overall health. 


1- Pass On The Additives And Artificials

Obviously we just spent some time above going through 14 specific foods, additives, and/or categories of food that can all cause or contribute to chronic inflammation. But, we can’t stress the dangers of these enough. 

Chemical additives, artificial sweeteners, and artificial products used in making “foods” wreak havoc on your health. 

Everything from artificial colorings, flavorings, so-called stabilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial sugars and more can all cause chronic inflammation that can lead to multiple health concerns, complications, and disease. 

Look for real, whole foods, or foods that use natural products to create various colorings and flavors. 

For instance, instead of red dye, look for products that use beet juice (trust me, you won’t taste it) for coloring. 

Or, choose natural sweeteners like real cane sugar or zero calorie sweeteners made from real sources like stevia leaf as opposed to artificial (potentially cancer-causing) sweeteners that are made in a lab. 

When you can’t buy fresh, whole foods, always check the label and follow the less is more rule.

  • The fewer ingredients the better. 
  • The fewer letters in the words on that ingredient list the better. 

Chances are, if you’re seeing ingredients with names that incorporate nearly all the letters in the alphabet, you can play a little anagram game and spell inflammation with those letters. 

If it doesn’t sound like it came from a farm, it just might do you harm. 


2- Add In Anti-Inflammatory Foods To Your Diet

Aside from ditching foods that can cause inflammation, you can add foods to your diet that are anti-inflammatory in nature. 

Foods that are rich in antioxidants boost your health by fighting oxidative stress within your body, they are able to prevent disease, and they can repair the damage done to your body by those inflammation causing foods. 

Consider incorporating healthy meals and snacks using the following anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard)
  • Broccoli
  • Almonds and walnuts
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines)
  • Cherries
  • Turmeric and ginger
  • Green tea and matcha tea


3- Reduce Stress

Stress can be a huge contributor to chronic inflammation. When you’re experiencing inflammation, your body can’t effectively eliminate it while in a state of stress. 

Try incorporating the following stress relief practices to reduce stress and inflammation:

  • Journaling
  • Going for a walk
  • Meditation
  • Mindful breathing
  • Talking with a friend or therapist


4- Get Healthy Sleep

Healthy sleep is a crucial, but often overlooked, link to weight loss. This is likely due to the fact that our bodies need restful sleep to reduce inflammation. And, inversely, a lack of sleep can lead to inflammation. 

But, getting healthy sleep isn’t just lying in bed for the recommended amount of hours each night. 

Incorporate each of the following practices to ensure your body cycles through the appropriate sleep stages each night, thereby granting restful, regenerative sleep to fight inflammation and weight gain.

  • Seek to get 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night. 
  • Incorporate a bedtime routine each evening to prepare your body for restful sleep.
  • Turn off electronics 2 hours prior to bedtime. 
  • Don’t consume caffeine after 2 pm.
  • Practice mindful breathing exercises prior to bedtime. 
  • Keep your bedroom free of clutter, dark, cool (60-67 degrees is recommended for healthy sleep), and comfortable. 
  • Skip late night heavy snacks or meals.
  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each evening and morning. 


5- Exercise Regularly

From a brisk walk to a HIIT workout, exercising regularly can reduce inflammation. 

Not only does exercise also promote healthy sleep and reduce stress (2 ways we just mentioned as beneficial to reducing inflammation), but it also aids in weight loss and fat loss, both needful to decrease inflammation in adipose tissue which can reduce overall inflammation in the body. 

Exercise also increases muscle mass, which is known to increase the levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines in the body. 


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