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Inflammation is a condition that damages healthy tissue, raises blood pressure, and can potentially encourage cancer cells to grow, says Rachel Beller, R.D., president of Beller Nutritional Institute. Since consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids (in relation to omega-3s) can increase the risk of inflammation, swap out omega-6-laden soy, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, safflower, and mixed vegetable oils for extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. For higher-heat cooking or a more neutral taste, use organic expeller pressed canola oil (those sold in glass bottles are the best).
Margarine or Spreads with Partially-Hydrogenated Oil
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Trans-fatty (partially-hydrogenated) acids definitely increase inflammatory biomarkers in the body, says Daphne Miller, M.D., author of The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest Diets from Around the World -- Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home. So avoid them in general. Ghee (clarified butter) is a good alternative: “Yes, butter contains omega-6 fatty acids, but clarified butter has an intense flavor, so you can use a lot less of it than normal butter," Beller says. "My favorite way to get a rich, buttery taste without a heavy dose of omega-6 fat in recipes is to take half a teaspoon of ghee and blend it with some olive oil."
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Inflammatory foods increase risk for chronic health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disease, Miller says. And though the jury’s still out, a couple of studies point to saturated animal fats as inflammatory culprits. Instead of fatty meats like burgers, hot dogs, bacon, bologna, or ribs, Beller suggests eating more omega-3-rich fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna, as well as beans, nuts, and whole soy foods.
Whole or 2% Milk
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To lower your saturated fat intake, limit your consumption of whole and 2% milk; instead, opt for (organic) skim or 1% milk. Other ways to top your cereal include organic soy, almond, rice, hemp, hazelnut, or oat beverages, Beller says.
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Instead of cream cheese, substitute small amounts of naturally soft, spreadable cheeses like goat cheese or part-skim ricotta when topping toast or making dips—they're naturally lower in saturated fat.
Processed Cheeses (Such as American)
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Pass up processed cheese and enjoy small amounts of natural, hard cheeses for more flavor (and less sodium). If you can find it, cheese made from the milk of grass-fed animals is best, Beller says.
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There are some studies that show that a high sugar diet fuels inflammation, Miller says. Cut back on sugary cereals and choose low-sugar, high-fiber varieties instead. Another anti-inflammatory breakfast option? Oatmeal—especially minimally-processed steel cut oats.
Full-Fat, Sugary Yogurt
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Even yogurt with “fruit on the bottom” can have a surprising amount of sugar. Choose low-fat or nonfat yogurt (preferably organic), or go for Greek yogurt to get an extra dose of protein, Beller says. Sweeten plain yogurt with a teaspoon of agave or brown-rice syrup, a dash of cinnamon, and some diced fruit.
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As with sugar, eating too many refined carbohydrates can lead to inflammation. Limit white flour bread (and pasta) and eat more high-fiber, 100% whole-grain varieties.
Pre-Seasoned Foods and Seasoning Mixes
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A high sodium to potassium ratio in your diet is thought to create an inflammatory response. Season your side dishes and entrées with fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, basil, sage, and rosemary, or try no-sodium-added spice mixes.