Drowsiness, bloating, and even diabetes are all different manifestations of inflammation—or your immune system's response to a potential threat. It's when this process becomes a regular occurrence, provoked by unhealthy eating, a lack of exercise, or stress that it becomes a health issue. In other words, these stressors put your immune system in a constant state of attack. But as Lori Shemek, PhD, points out, "A powerful tool to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store." As a leading fat cell researcher and recognized authority on inflammation, Shemek cautions against consuming the following five trigger foods:
Refined grains: While whole wheat grains are perfectly safe, "wheat" or "wheat flour" are essentially grains that have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients. They create the same inflammatory response as sugar. Shemek recommends opting for whole oats, brown rice, or quinoa instead.
Diet soda: Unsurprisingly, the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can trigger a heightened insulin response, which can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and more. "Choose sparkling water flavored with fruit or cucumbers or sodas sweetened with natural stevia," suggests Shemek.
Processed foods: As with diet soda, the added sugars, preservatives, and artificial ingredients in processed junk foods are all inflammatory. "Every country that has adopted the highly processed diet becomes unhealthy," she cautions.
Sugar: In Shemek's words, sugar is the number one inflammatory food. "[It] can have serious inflammatory health consequences including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and even aging skin," she writes.
Canola oil: Cheaply produced cooking oils including vegetable, canola, soy, and corn are very high in omega-6s and low in healthy omega-3s. "Use anti-inflammatory oils such as olive oil, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil or red palm fruit oil," she suggests.
For more on the subject, read up on what an inflammation specialist eats in a typical day.