It’s easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which foods are not. Marketing has a way of making you think that even very inflammatory foods contain health-promoting properties when in reality they do not.


Photo: Ani Dimi


These 10 foods are the biggest “healthy” culprits that secretly cause inflammation. As with all advice, take this with a grain of salt—it’s all about how something interacts with your individual body:

1. Peanuts.

Despite their name, peanuts are not actually nuts at all—they’re part of the legume family. For many, this may come as a surprise, but this popular post-workout snack may not actually be healthy and may be causing more inflammation than good.

In my practice, I recommend that most of my patients don’t eat peanuts, for several reasons. For one, peanuts are one of the most common food allergens. But even if you don’t think you have a peanut allergy, peanuts contain naturally occurring molds that can trigger an immune response, which would then result in inflammation. The common fungi found on peanuts are called aflatoxins. The National Cancer Institute has stated that exposure to aflatoxins can cause an increased risk of liver cancer, and in my practice, I’ve found a diet high in aflatoxins contribute to higher levels of inflammation. This is just one more reason to keep this commonly known “health food” out of your diet.

2. Seasoning mixes.

Who would have thought that something as simple as seasoning your food could lead to inflammation? While we may want to think that all seasoning is made with fresh herbs and spices, this is unfortunately not always the case.

We can run into issues with seasoning mixes when we use mixes containing added sugars and artificial ingredients and colors. Artificial colors are a major issue, and they are found in so many processed and packaged foods today. Since the use of these colors has increased, so has the presence of allergic and other immune reactive conditions. The artificial colors contain very small molecules, and thus the body’s immune system finds it challenging to defend the body from them. Artificial colors can bind with body proteins and can cause significant inflammation due to an immunological response and can even lead to things like leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.

You can easily purchase dried spices and herbs from the bulk section at health food stores and make your own seasoning mix.

3. Seitan.

Seitan is a soy-based product that many vegans and vegetarians include in their diet as a way to boost their protein intake. This particular “fake meat” is texturized wheat protein, and it’s highly processed. It is so important that we keep processed foods out of our diet to keep inflammation at bay. The thing about processed foods is that they are man-made, so we aren’t born with the ability to break these foods down appropriately. Since seitan is wheat protein, it’s also not a good option for anyone who suffers from a gluten or wheat sensitivity.

Steer clear of this processed soy product even if you don’t have a gluten sensitivity and choose whole foods such as nuts and seeds to boost your plant-based protein intake.

4. Barley.

Grains—especially high-gluten ones, like barley—are another food that I often recommend my patients remove from their diet. Grains and gluten have been linked to intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and even autoimmune conditions by triggering an inflammatory immune response.

In my practice, I work with a lot of patients who have autoimmune thyroid disease, and gluten is one of the first things we work to remove from their diet. This is due to the inflammatory effect gluten can have on the body but also because gliadin, which is the protein found in gluten, resembles the thyroid. When you consume gluten, the immune system will attempt to attack this protein, but the same antibodies can also go after your thyroid at the same time.



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