Inflammation plays a vital role in your body's healing process, as it helps you recover from small wounds and infections. But when your body remains inflamed over long periods of time, it can produce the opposite effect. In fact, chronic inflammation has been linked with a whole host of dangerous health consequences.
Your food choices can make an impact here. Depending on the dishes you choose, your dinners could be helping to reduce your inflammation–or they could be making matters much worse.
"There is a link between dietary choices, especially…the way you eat day in and day out, and chronic inflammation in the body," Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep and How to Eat to Beat Disease Cookbook, told Eat This, Not That! in an interview. "The foods you eat on a regular basis play an important role in either calming chronic inflammation or worsening it."
Fighting inflammation can be key to maintaining your overall health in the long run. After all, many of the health risks associated with chronic inflammation are among the deadliest diseases.
"Chronic diseases are the number one killer of Americans and people in other industrialized countries," says Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, health writer and adjunct instructor at Georgetown University. "Most of these diseases, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer, are triggered by chronic inflammation."
Read on to learn about five popular dinner foods that could be leaving you at risk for chronic information, according to experts. Then, for advice on which foods produce an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, be sure to check out these dietitian-recommended Popular Foods That Reduce Inflammation.
Research has found that saturated fats, like those found in red meat, can have a pro-inflammatory effect on the body. In fact, one 2016 study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found that diets high in saturated fat can activate inflammation through a process different from the one your immune system uses to protect you—aka, the type of inflammation that isn't helpful in healing your scrapes and bumps.
"Consider trying more plant-based proteins instead of animal proteins like beef, lamb, pork, and poultry," says Hultin. "That way, you get the added benefit of fiber and antioxidants in your protein source!"
Jibrin recommends steering clear of "charred or smoked meat, poultry or other animal protein of any kind."
Evidence suggests that eating animal products cooked at high, dry heat can lead to higher levels of compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can increase inflammation in your body. Thankfully, research shows that eating grains, vegetables, dairy, and other non-meat foods that are grilled don't pose the same risk.
Now, be sure to check out One Major Side Effect of Eating Grilled Foods, Says Science!
Fish and chips
Hultin suggests avoiding fried foods, which scientists have discovered can also lead to higher levels of AGEs—as can highly processed foods. If you're going to have fish, consider other cooking methods, such as baking or poaching. For instance, try this Oven-Baked Fish With Herbed Breadcrumbs Recipe.
Hultin recommends avoiding consuming processed or refined foods like white rice or white bread on a regular basis. Instead, try opting for a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa. In fact, research indicates that swapping out refined grains like white rice for whole grains can help to decrease bacteria levels in the body that are associated with inflammation.
Sometimes you just want a fizzy soda to go with your dinner, but both experts and research recommend that you steer clear of these beverages if you want to keep inflammation levels low.
Evidence suggests that fructose can be bad news for inflammation, so Jibrin suggests skipping the sweetened beverages altogether. Consider saving sodas and sweet cocktails for special occasions and instead, reach for low- to no-sugar beverages like water or a flavored seltzer to enjoy with your dinner.
For more ideas, be sure to check out 25 Healthy, Low-Sugar Soda Alternatives!