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The Worst Eating Habits for Inflammation, Says Science

What and when you eat may affect your health in unexpected ways
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

There seems to be a bit of a love/hate relationship with inflammation. At its core, inflammation is a necessary part of our body's natural responses. When our bodies have an injury, it uses inflammation as a way to communicate the problem to our immune system. 

Although we need certain levels of inflammation, it can exist at very unhealthy levels in our bodies as well. Chronic inflammation, which lasts longer than several months, is directly linked to health issues like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

This can be caused by a number of things like injury, age, body mass, and diet. Keep reading to learn about the worst eating habits that can cause inflammation, and for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

1

You're still cooking with margarine.

Margarine stick
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If you're still cooking with margarine, you may want to reconsider. Many types of margarine contain trans fats, which are known to cause systemic inflammation. And although you can now find some in stores without trans fats, it's important to read the labels to be sure. 

A study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that trans fats have a strong connection to inflammation in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. This study found that although there was an increased risk factor for women with higher BMI, the inflammatory effects of trans fats still applied to all levels of BMI. 

2

You're eating white bread.

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Regularly eating highly processed carbohydrates like white bread can also lead to a number of unwanted health issues. According to a study found in Mediators of Inflammation, processed carbohydrates and refined sugar can increase our risk of systemic inflammation. 

This is because when we eat carbs with higher amounts of added sugar, it quickly raises the blood sugar levels in our bodies. As our bodies work to process these sugars, it responds with inflammation. 

RELATED: The Best and Worst Bread in America in 2021-Ranked!

3

You're eating late at night.

man eating leftover pizza as a late night snack
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Some people may not realize that inflammation can be caused by more than just the types of food you're eating. If you're eating late dinners or snacking before bed, you may experience increased inflammation. 

A study published in PLOS One found a relationship between eating larger meals in the evening and increased inflammatory levels. Not only that, but it was also discovered that our levels of CRP (a natural biomarker of inflammation and other chronic illnesses) increase with the number of calories consumed after 5 p.m.

RELATED: Eating Habits to Avoid Before Bedtime

4

You're eating too much red meat.

slabs of different cuts of red meat on wooden cutting board
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There are naturally occurring compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE) that are found in certain foods when high amounts of heat are added. For example, you can find high levels of AGEs in certain oils, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, and red meat. 

Consuming too many AGEs has been linked to causing inflammation in the body and one of the food groups with the highest levels of AGEs is red meat. A food's levels of AGEs are also directly affected by the method of cooking, with things like grilling, broiling, and pan-frying being linked to increased levels of AGEs. Cooking meat, especially red meat, with these methods may have inflammatory effects.

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