6 Healthy Foods that Cause Inflammation

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

wheat foods

Most of us try to incorporate healthy foods into our diet. Lean proteins and healthy fats are good additions; added sugar, and processed foods are best avoided. Although the nutritional value of food, in that respect, is important, it’s also important to understand that different foods contain different compounds that can cause other results within our bodies beyond the typical conversion to energy. Specifically, inflammation can be caused by a number of foods. Although it may not surprise you to know that “unhealthy” food can cause inflammation, it might shock you to learn that a number of healthy foods can be inflammation-causing-culprits as well.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt is often thought of as a healthy breakfast option, and it certainly can be, but it’s important to check the label. Many yogurts are nutritionally equivalent to ice cream and full of fat with lots of sugar. Sugar can cause inflammation and other obvious health consequences such as weight gain. Choose a yogurt that doesn’t have added sugar. Greek yogurt tastes great and can be a good choice, although it tends to have less calcium. Also consider yogurts with probiotics, as these can have digestive benefits.

2. Tomatoes

What? Really? Well, sometimes. Tomatoes belong to a group of plants known as nightshades, which also includes white potatoes and red and green peppers. Tomatoes are a beautiful, delicious, and seemingly harmless fruit, unless you have a sensitivity to solanine. For those folks, eating tomatoes can lead to inflammation that makes arthritic joints sore, encourages the growth of tumors, and increases the risk of developing heart disease.

3. Wheat

It’s been hammered into our lexicon that wheat is the healthy alternative to white bread, and that can be true, but usually isn’t. Wheat comes with its own set of health concerns. Why? Because it’s been engineered that way. In an effort to increase wheat production, scientists have genetically modified the wheat we eat so that 5 percent of its proteins are completely unique. Consequently, this unnatural tampering with nature has resulted in many people suffering from wheat allergies and associated inflammation.

4. Citrus fruits

Most people don’t have a problem with citrus fruits; in fact, they enjoy their many benefits. However, for those who have what’s known as a citrus allergy, citrus fruits can cause inflammation and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. If citrus allergies affect you, try tart cherries instead, which have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food, according to research from the Oregon Health & Science University [1].

5. Nuts

Nuts are full of good fats and can be one of the healthiest and most nutritious food choices available. But if you suffer from osteoarthritis, the histamine in nuts can actually attack your joints and cause painful inflammation. If you find yourself hurting while doing simple tasks after eating nuts, you may want to cut them out of your diet!

6. Rice

A number of varieties of rice are extremely healthy and offer many benefits. However, highly processed white rice, and refined carbohydrates in general, is void of nutrition and can cause inflammation since it quickly turns into sugar within the body.

References (1)
  1. Oregon Health & Science. Researchers say tart cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food. PR Newswire. 2012 May 30.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • John Ranta

    It’s kind of funny to read an article about “healthy foods” that cause inflammation. Because healthy foods don’t cause inflammation. The headline should be “Supposedly healthy foods that aren’t”.

  • I totally hear what you’re
    saying, but I keep going back to that same old question, is this the battle I
    want to fight? Healthy eating is definitely on my top 10 list of things I want
    to teach my daughter

  • Cathy

    it’s so good to read an article that recognises citrus foods and others can cause sinus and Inflammation. suffer with sinus and inflammation and only just learning abut it
    how can i fnd more information?

  • green

    Mangos and pineapples are not citrus.

  • George

    Teach those kids to be orthopedics like their parents.

  • Greg Brady

    That article and this article talk about two different situations. This one says tomatoes might be a problem if a person is sensitive to solanine. If they are not sensitive, there probably won’t be a problem. Just something to consider.

  • JOHN K.

    THE ONLY THING YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT IS WHEAT,WHITE RICE AND SUGAR..

  • Dawn

    I’ve been been researching and compiling a list of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods to refer to for meal-planning and snacks. I am confused by the fact that I have repeatedly seen oats, walnuts, almonds, lemons, limes and grapefruit on the “anti-inflammatory” list, as well as tomato sauce (due to its lycopene), yet you are saying they are on a short list of foods that cause inflammation??

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  • Fred kumba

    Dear sir/madam
    , I am on a medication for blood
    Pre sure and I always have joint pains is it because I eat too much acidic food? Kindly give me a list of food without acid thanks.
    Fred.

  • Swurvin Jrb

    You are suppose to believe in science and educate yourself on the chemistry between your body and food. Understanding how your body reacts to foods is the best way to know what is fact versus fiction.

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  • tray

    only reason why its a problem, is because it is gmo…if all natural there should be no problem.

  • Matt

    Oats don’t contain gluten. There is a risk of cross contamination but oats by themselves are fine even for celiacs.

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  • Equus

    I get achy joints when I consume too many tomatoes 🙁 and I seem to retain water?

  • Jennifer

    Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian who has rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, often hears claims that particular foods affect arthritis pain.

    “A patient will tell me her arthritis worsens if she eats sugar, or
    that she has less pain and stiffness if she takes a tablespoon or two of
    cider vinegar each day,” she says.

    Sandon thinks healing food myths are sparked by a search for
    alternatives to arthritis medications, which have side effects and risks
    that worry some people. “It is very appealing to find something
    natural, but there’s no food in the world that can do what medicine
    can,” says Sandon, assistant professor at the University of Texas
    Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

    So why do such myths persist? “The more often you hear
    it, and the louder and more shrilly you hear it, the more believable it
    becomes,” says Richard Panush, MD, a professor in the division of
    rheumatology at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

    With that in mind, here is the truth behind the hype about some foods
    commonly touted as capable of helping or hurting arthritis symptoms.

    Myth: A Dozen Gin-soaked Raisins a Day Provide Pain Relief

    Science. Raisins are often treated with
    sulfur dioxide gas to preserve their color, and sulfur has been
    explored for its role in joint health. Some 25 years ago, Russian
    researchers reported a sulfur-containing compound helped lessen
    destructive joint changes in mice, but the results were inconclusive at
    best. Gin is made from juniper berries, which were used in the Middle
    Ages for their purported anti-inflammatory properties. That, also, has
    never been proven.

    Bottom Line. No scientific study has shown this folk remedy reduces arthritis pain or inflammation.

    Myth: Drinking Cider Vinegar Eases Pain

    Science. Some people
    contend beta-carotene in apple cider vinegar destroys free radicals
    involved in ravaging the immune system, but the amount of beta-carotene
    in the vinegar is infinitesimal. Others say acid crystals cause joints
    to become stiff and vinegar dissolves them. Gout is the only form of
    arthritis that involves crystals – uric acid crystals, formed from an
    excess of uric acid in the body – and cider vinegar doesn’t relieve gout
    pain.

    Bottom Line. Apple cider vinegar belongs in your kitchen, not your medicine chest.

    Myth: Dairy Products Make Arthritis Worse

    Science. In a study Dr. Panush conducted, published in 1983 in Arthritis & Rheumatism, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on a dairy-free diet fared no better than those who didn’t eliminate dairy. In fact, 2014 research published in Arthritis Care & Research found women who drank more milk had less osteoarthritis (OA) progression, and a study in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases found that milk may help prevent gout.

    Bottom Line. Low-fat or nonfat milk and other dairy products are safe for most people with arthritis.

    Myth: Nightshade Vegetables Aggravate Arthritis

    Science. Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants
    and peppers are just some of the nightshade vegetables that contain the
    chemical solanine, which some have branded a culprit in arthritis pain.
    But no formal research has ever confirmed the claim, and the vegetables
    contain essential nutrients. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition in 2011 showed yellow and purple potatoes lowered blood markers for inflammation in healthy men.

    Bottom Line. People with arthritis may benefit from nightshades, although some people may have sensitivities to certain vegetables.

    Myth: A Raw Food Diet Relieves Symptoms

    Science. In the late 1990s, Finnish scientists reporting in the British Journal of Rheumatology put a group of people with RA on a raw vegan diet supplemented with beverages rich in lactobacilli –
    bacteria considered good for the gut and possibly the immune system.
    Compared with those not on a raw diet, they reported more symptom relief
    while on the diet, but researchers found no objective differences in
    disease activity, duration of morning stiffness or pain. Half of those
    on the diet quit prematurely because of nausea and diarrhea.

    Bottom Line. Eating more fruits and
    vegetables is beneficial, but if you’re going to increase your intake of
    raw veggies, do it slowly so the extra fiber won’t upset your stomach.
    It’s not clear this dietary change brings arthritis relief, though.

    Myth: When it Comes to Red Wine, More Is Better

    Science. Research has found that resveratrol, a
    compound in red wine, appears to have anti-inflammatory effects. That
    includes a study published in 2014 in Nucleic Acids Researchthat
    found resveratrol stops the formation of inflammatory factors involved
    with cancer, cardiovascular and chronic inflammatory diseases. Moderate
    amounts of wine may indeed bring about health benefits, from protecting
    the heart to reducing food-borne illnesses. However, excessive drinking
    appears to increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines,
    according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers.

    Bottom Line. Drink wine in moderation –
    no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks
    per day for men, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And
    before taking a sip, check with your doctor to make sure alcohol doesn’t
    interact with your arthritis medications. Excess alcohol intake,
    including wine, is a known risk for inducing gout attacks.

    Myth: Coffee Causes Gout

    Science. Researchers found a decreased risk
    for gout in association with day-to-day coffee drinking after studying
    tens of thousands of women in the Nurses’ Health Study, according to a
    study in a 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That corroborates a 2007 finding in Arthritis & Rheumatism that long-term coffee intake was associated with a lower incidence of gout in men.

    Bottom Line. Coffee does not cause gout, and may lower gout risk.

    Myth: Citrus Fruits Cause Inflammation

    Science. Websites abound warning people
    with arthritis away from citrus fruits because they supposedly promote
    inflammation. On the contrary, citrus is rich in vitamin C, and the
    long-term Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts showed OA progression
    dropped by more than half in people who consumed at least 152 milligrams
    of vitamin C a day.

    Bottom Line. Don’t shy away from citrus
    fruits. Their vitamin C might protect against OA pain and is critical
    in the formation of the major components of cartilage. In addition,
    vitamin C is an antioxidant that can quench cartilage-damaging free
    radicals.

    Updated May, 2015

  • Jennifer

    This article is based on myth not fact.

  • Katherine

    Thank you. This is helpful information. With studies that help find more information about RA. This disease is individual and food allergies can happen as it progresses. A food/product journal is a useful tool for you and your doctor.

  • kerry

    “Sweetie, care for some rice with dinner?”
    “No honey, that causes inflammation.”
    “No problem dear, how about some couscous?”
    “Negatory that pumpkin – wheat is inflammatory too.”
    “OK, well I’ll just whip up some guac for us”
    “Sorry, but tomatoes are also inflammatory.”
    “How about some cashews?”
    “Now sweetie, what are you trying to do, kill me?”

  • Rani E Lewis

    I am 47 year old female and taking nuts, rice, wheat, yogurt, sugar on daily basis……..of late I have observed that my joint pain increases and sometimes decreases…..and later on studying on myself I have realised that my daily intake is causing me problem…..now help me somebody ——if rice and wheat is giving me a problem then what should I consume in place of it…….really it is die die situation for me.

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  • TJ Strong

    You are so correct Swurvin. I have been in denial and just down right stubborn in terms of the foods that cause my body problems. At almost 54 and dealing with serious pain in my legs and feet everyday 24/7 I have stopped the crap and I listen and respect my body as it speaks to me. I have been active all my adult life and it is no fun not being able to walk as fast as I use to and sometimes hardly. My doctor gave me some addictive pain pills (which I have NOT taken) and told me I must lose weight. I do appreciate that she referred me to an Endocrinologist whom I will see on May 15. I look forward to that. But my gut tells me I have more knowledge of my issues than any one. Peace and Health to All.

  • TJ Strong

    I’m with you on your situation, Rani. I was doing the same thing recently. Add oranges to that list. Which I knew I had no business eating because of the arthritis but foolishly ate them anyway. Sweet and juicy they were and boy am I paying for it. My legs never, ever hurt so much. I would say replace rice with vegetables and salads. That’s what I’m doing. God bless and good health.

  • TJ Strong

    I’m sorry but the information you posted here does not apply to everyone. Those of us who monitor our bodies, how they work and what affects them in negative ways know what we are talking about. Our ancestors did not have drugs to help problems within the body. But then again, our ancestors weren’t eating fake food like we are either. The soil was good and the food was real. They also weren’t consuming the amount of sugar that we are today. The bottom line is our bodies are jacked up for many different reasons and drugs/medications from doctors will not cure the problem. Those things will only cover up the underlying problem.

  • L Koshka

    I don’t understand this comment at all. Is what the battle you want to fight? Do you mean taking on board new information or…?

  • L Koshka

    I’m pretty sure nuts are high in histamine. Nightshades have basically a poison in them that can’t be tolerated by everyone. Citrus foods are high in histamine which some people can’t break down well and then causes inflammation just like when you get a rash on your skin as an allergic reaction swells due to histamine. It’s not an article about griffins.

  • L Koshka

    Actually many celiacs react badly to something specifically in oats. It is very similar to gluten. So you just need to be careful.

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