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5 Drinks Secretly Increasing Inflammation In Your Body

Dietitians recommend limiting these beverages for pain relief.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

A lot has been said in recent years about inflammation. Anyone looking to avoid pain and long-term health issues has been warned against this condition, as an increased level of inflammation can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other health problems if ignored. While inflammation can cause myriad issues, educating yourself about ways to prevent it can make a big difference.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, certain foods like preserved meats, fried food, sugary treats, and other refined carbs can trigger worse markers of chronic inflammation. Certain foods always get a bad rap when it comes to sparking inflammation, but drinks can also lead to this condition. Experts have linked drinking too much alcohol to inflammation, but other sneaky beverages can compound the effects as well.

If you need to reduce inflammation in your body, make sure to limit these beverages or consume them only on occasion. Next, check out The #1 Best Way to Tell if You Have Inflammation.

1

Sugary lattes

barista making a cappuccino
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"While research suggests that coffee itself might have beneficial effects on inflammation due to its plant compounds and polyphenol content, what you put in your coffee might counterbalance the good," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and a member of our medical expert board. "Many coffee and mock-coffee drinks are loaded with sugar from syrups, sauces, whips, and drizzles. If you are slurping down a large or venti one of these every day, you might be taking in more sugar than you think! Does a fun flavored latte once a week hurt you? No, but consistent intake of added sugar in beverages can."

Instead, Goodson suggests trying to be "satisfied with less sweetness and maybe just get one pump of flavor, skip the whip, and drizzle and just use milk foam. You'll save on added sugar, calories, and likely dollars, too!"

If you really want to fight inflammation with caffeine, check out the Best Coffee Habits for Inflammation and make your morning latte work in your favor.

2

Flavored oat milk

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"When it comes to non-dairy milk, not all brands and varieties are created equal," says Trista Best, RD at Balance One Supplements. "When oat milk is made with flavorings and added sugar it becomes inflammatory. Even flavorless options can contain around 7 grams of sugar per serving. For those that have a gluten allergy or intolerance that can make their inflammatory reaction worse. While oats are naturally gluten-free, some are processed in facilities that manufacture gluten-containing ingredients making cross-contamination possible."

If you want to pick up the best oak milk for your buck, make sure you keep an eye out for The Best & Worst Oat Milk Brands to Buy.

3

Sweet tea

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"Sugar-sweetened beverages like sweet tea should be limited as much as possible," says Goodson. "Over time, excessive intake of added sugars can contribute to chronic inflammation, and many sugar-sweetened beverages have next to no nutritional value, meaning they really just provide you with sugar and calories. Try swapping these out for water, lightly flavored waters, or even water flavored with fresh fruit as a good low-to-no sugar hydration source."

Instead, grab one of these 7 Best Teas to Support Your Immune System Right Now.

4

Store-bought smoothies

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"While smoothies can be a great option for meal replacement or post-workout recovery, many of the ones you buy at smoothie shops actually have added sugar in a word you may not recognize called turbinado," Goodson says, adding, "The addition of turbinado, in addition to fruit juices, can increase the sugar content of a smoothie real fast!"

"This is not to be confused with fruit or fresh-pressed fruit juice, which is considered natural sugar, we are talking about added sugar (aka sugar poured into the smoothie)," says Goodson. "This added sugar, when consumed over time, can potentially contribute to inflammation, especially if you drink other sugar-sweetened beverages."

"The solution is first making a smoothie at home with fresh fruit, milk, and yogurt, but if you are going to buy one, check out the ingredient list and nutrition facts label," says Goodson. "Cutting the added sugar might mean getting a skinny, lean, or light smoothie, depending on how the store labels it. Then, of course, make sure your smoothie has a good carbohydrate to protein ratio so it doesn't spike your blood sugar."

RELATED8 Best Smoothie Recipes to Manage Blood Sugar, Say Dietitians

5

Soda

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If the sugar in your smoothie doesn't spark inflammation, the sugar in a soda just might.

"Sugary soda increases inflammation," says Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and a member of our medical expert board. "Chronic inflammation can develop over time from regularly drinking beverages with lots of added sugar. Soda is the leading contributor to added sugar in the diet. Consuming a diet high in added sugar can increase inflammation that can lead to disease. I suggest drinking water or sparkling water instead. It's okay to add mint and lemon, or even a splash of juice for flavor."

Don't feel like you have to give up soda cold turkey. If sparkling water sounds less than appealing, make sure to try out the 6 Best Drinks To Have Every Day, Say Dietitians, and find a way to make a new drink work for you without worrying about inflammation.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story identified dairy as a trigger for inflammation in the body, which was an error. While more conclusive research is still to be done, multiple reviews of clinical trials have not found an association with inflammation when study participants consumed dairy. This story was originally published in March 2022 and was updated in August 2022. 

Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more about Erich