Between holiday season and the “new normal,” it’s easy to feel run down. As my kitchen table is now a place for serving food, conducting business meetings, and a workspace for the kiddos’ virtual school, the constant in-home commotion is real! As I check in with myself to untangle this web of beautiful chaos, and the exhaustion that comes with it, it’s also important to look at how we are refueling our own bodies.
There’s never been a better time to take a closer look at the foods you’re fueling your body with. Say “No, thanks!” to the ones that aren’t serving you, and “Yes, please!” to those that will keep you healthy through these winter months! Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about balance, and I definitely am on board with enjoying a treat or two (Hello, MDB) around the holidays. But, adopting healthier daily habits isn’t something we should be waiting for the New Year to put into place. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the foods we may be eating right now that are causing us MORE harm than good and make a vow to cut them out BEFORE our New Year, New You Resolutions begin.
5 Foods + Ingredients to Avoid That Can Cause Inflammation + Healthy Swaps
Did you know that there are a handful of foods that can actually cause inflammation in our bodies? Some of them might even surprise you. But why do we care if we have inflammation? Some inflammation is a good thing. When our bodies react to outside stressors, our immune cells are signaled to release more proteins to fight against any invading cells and any possible infections. But, when this happens TOO often, it can actually cause more stress on our bodies than good, and it can begin to attack the healthy bacteria and cells within our body.
Inflammation in our body can lead to all sorts of issues likes:
- digestive system issues (think IBS)
- chronic pain and joint stiffness
- heart disease
- sleep disturbance
That’s why it’s super important to limit some of the causes of inflammation to keep our bodies in tip top health because we don’t have time to be fighting bad hair days, internet trolls, AND inflammation on the daily, right?! While this list isn’t all-inclusive, here are 5 common foods that might be causing inflammation:
Okay, I get that this time of year might make it incredibly difficult to cut back on sugar, but I promise it doesn’t have to be! Sugar is one of the biggest inflammation-causing foods that most of us eat on a regular basis. That’s not to say you should run and head from sugar or remove it fully from your diet. It’s just important to know that when we eat an excess of high-sugary foods like candy, cookies, cake, soda, and fruit juice, we run the risk of messing with our body’s ability to regulate insulin production. High levels of fructose in our bodies are also linked with higher risks of kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
- Sugar swaps: Opting for fresh fruit in place of desserts or even fruit juices would be optimal. Other swaps include using natural sugars like honey or monk fruit or even coconut sugar or stevia for the occasional treat if you’re wanting to bake or add a little sweetness to your foods.
Dairy is one of those things that truly can affect all of us differently. If you don’t typically have trouble digesting dairy, then it’s probably fine to continue to eat or drink it in moderate amounts. When your intake of dairy is high, however, you run the risk of disrupting the healthy bacteria in your gut, which can decrease the number of bacteria that actually fight against inflammation. Because some people are actually lactose intolerant, high levels of dairy in our diet can affect the release of histamines, which can cause us to feel bloated and actually lead to stomach discomfort.
- Dairy swaps: Almond milk or coconut milk make great substitutions for smoothies and for adding to your coffee. Greek yogurt is also a great option because it’s typically considered lactose-free and actually supports the growth of healthy bacteria in our gut. If you can tolerate dairy, there’s no reason to cut it out completely. Just be mindful of how much you’re consuming on a regular basis and pay attention to how you feel after you eat or drink dairy products.
Refined carbs are things like white bread, pastries, cookies, low fiber cereals, pasta, and other processed foods. The reason they can lead to increased inflammation is because these foods go through a process where most of the fiber is removed, causing their health benefits to be almost nonexistent. Refined carbs are also higher in their glycemic index, meaning they’re going to cause a spike of sugar within our body and be stored more as fat vs. having our bodies utilize them as fuel.
- Refined carbs swaps: Opt for complex carbs such as potatoes, whole grains, veggies, and fresh fruit. These are packed full of fiber, and their energy content will keep us feeling fuller and sustained for longer periods of time than refined carbs.
I know deli meat is super easy and convenient when you need to make the kids’ lunches or take something on the go, and I’m not saying you have to give it up completely! Deli meats are high in protein, but they’re also super high in sodium, which can lead to things like water retention and a buildup of sodium in our bloodstream. This can result in kidney disease, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Processed meat swaps: Opt for cooked meats, lower sodium deli options, or even eggs as a source of protein.
AKA “bad” fats! Most margarine and processed fats will have “trans” fat added to extend their shelf life, and trans fat can be found in foods such as cakes, cookies, biscuits, fried foods, fast food, and anything that has the words “partially hydrogenated” on the label. Trans fats reduce the amount of good cholesterol in our body, but they can also cause damage to our cells and lead to heart disease.
- Trans fat swaps: Opt for cooking vs. visiting the drive-thru lane when you can, and swapping trans fats for healthier fats will do our bodies a world of good. Things like avocado, olive oil, and nuts are examples of healthier fats, but if you’re trying to lose weight, do keep an eye on the amount of fat you’re consuming on a daily basis. Our bodies need healthy fats to thrive optimally, but an excess of healthy fats can be just as detrimental as a diet high in unhealthy fats!
Aside from cutting out some of those high-risk foods, two other ways you can decrease inflammation in your body is to make time to exercise and try to control your stress levels. Both of these things will lead to a healthier mindset and a healthier body, which are key to feeling your best! If these two habits are difficult to maintain, I recommend adjusting your morning routine to add exercise and/or mediation into your schedule. Making time for YOU is one of the best things you can do for yourself! 😉
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