If you make a concerted effort to eat healthy foods and cook your meals at home, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re spinning your wheels.
Believe me, I get it. Healthy eating should be much simpler than it actually is. We should be able to go to the store, choose something labeled “healthy” and call it a day.
Unfortunately, with the way our food system is set up, things are not quite that cut and dry. Even foods with a healthy reputation — and that are marketed and labeled as “healthy” — might be contributing to chronic inflammation.
Here are five to watch out for, and action steps to take to make sure you’re making healthy choices and actually making a positive impact on your inflammation levels.
Many of us think of oatmeal as the ultimate health food. (I mean, it supports heart health, it has a ton of fiber, and it’s gluten-free…right?) Unfortunately, recent research has shown that many oat-containing products contain unsafe levels of glyphosate, the main ingredient found in the weed-killer Roundup. In fact, a 2018 study (1) by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that every single product they tested, tested positive for some amount of glyphosate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” which means it can definitely contribute to chronic inflammation and disease.
How eat oats the healthy way: If you’re buying and consuming oat products, make sure you buy organic. The same EWG study found that far fewer organic products contained unhealthy levels of glyphosate.
2. Nut milks
Opting for nut milk over inflammatory dairy products is a great way to start reducing chronic inflammation — and something I recommend to a large majority of my patients. But here’s the catch 22: Not all nut milks are created equally. In fact, some would definitely fall into the “unhealthy” category because of their sugar content and added ingredients like carrageenan, which is often used as an emulsifier.
Many studies have shown that carrageenan can contribute to inflammation; in fact, one study — published in Frontiers in Pediatrics — exposed mice to low concentrations of the ingredient for 18 days which showed that it can lead to “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action (2). Other reports have shown that it can contribute to ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease. (3)
How to consume nut milk the healthy way: Look for products without carrageenan and no added sugar; or, make your own nut and seed milks at home!
The whole purpose of supplements is to support our health, so it’s safe to assume they’d never contain harmful ingredients, right?
Sadly, a ton of supplements contain added sugar, fillers, and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives that you wouldn’t want in your food and you definitely don’t want in your supplements. This is especially true for those that come in gummy form or as liquids or powders.
How to supplement the healthy way: Look for supplements that are free from additives like sugar, colors, flavors, and other artificial ingredients. If you’re not sure which supplements to take, check out my essential supplement guide here.
4. Natural Sugars
Speaking of sugar, you want to watch out for it in all forms. So while honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar may come from natural, unprocessed sources — they’re still sugar. And when used in excess, they can contribute to unhealthy blood sugar levels and chronic inflammation. Studies have shown that as many as ⅓ of Americans have pre-diabetes, and sadly, most don’t even know it. (4)
How to find the healthiest types of sugar: Try opting for sugars that come from whole fruits, which are higher in fiber and will help decrease the blood sugar spike. That could mean a few blueberries on your yogurt or dark chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert.
5. Uncooked Veggies
If I asked you what the healthiest meal in the world is, you’d probably say a giant salad full of colorful veggies. But there’s one family of vegetables that you don’t want to eat raw; they’re called cruciferous veggies and they include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Studies have shown that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables can cause hypothyroidism in animals. (5) And as many of us know, thyroid issues are already extremely common and can be closely linked to chronic inflammation. Plus, eating these veggies uncooked can be hard on your gut and digestion which isn’t good for inflammation levels either.
How to eat cruciferous veggies the healthy way: Bake them, steam them, or sauté them! It doesn’t matter how you cook them, just make sure they’re nice and tender before you consume this family of veggies.
No one wants their healthy lifestyle choices to fall flat — or worse, put their inflammation levels at risk. That’s why I want everyone to be aware of the healthy foods above that may still be causing inflammation. The good news is that by making a few additional changes and getting savvy about what you buy and how you prepare it, you can make sure your healthy efforts are actually leading to a healthier you.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer webcam as well as in-person consultations for people across the country and around the world.
- Ewg. “Breakfast With a Dose of Roundup?” EWG, Environmental Working Group , 15 Aug. 2018, https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/glyphosateincereal/.
- Martino, et al. “The Role of Carrageenan and Carboxymethylcellulose in the Development of Intestinal Inflammation.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 13 Apr. 2017, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2017.00096/full.
- Tobacman JK (2001) Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments. Environmental Health Perspectives 109(10): 983-994
- “Prediabetes Campaign: 1 in 3 in U.S. Has Prediabetes, Learn Your Risk.” American Medical Association, 14 Nov. 2018, https://www.ama-assn.org/press-center/press-releases/prediabetes-campaign-1-3-us-has-prediabetes-learn-your-risk.
- Fenwick, G R, et al. “Glucosinolates and Their Breakdown Products in Food and Food Plants.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1983, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6337782.
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