Top 7 Hidden Inflammatory Ingredients in Processed Foods


These seven ingredients can cause inflammation in your body. When you have a chronic disease, like heart disease, your body is already in an inflamed state. This is why an anti-inflammatory, Paleo diet is so crucial to healing! Continuing to consume processed foods with inflammatory ingredients only leads to more inflammation and chronic disease, which is a vicious cycle you want to avoid.

Here are the top 7 hidden and inflammatory food ingredients:

  1. Trans fats

    For years, it has been known that trans fats are inflammatory and detrimental to human health. Trans fats are chemically created fats in which hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. These artificial fats are typically found in fast food, fried foods and processed foods like cakes, cookies, snack foods and stick margarine. These are the types of fats that cause chronic inflammation and diseases such as heart disease.

  2. Gluten

    Gluten is a protein that is found in certain cereal grains. It is found in products containing wheat, rye and barley. Other cereal grain ingredients that contain gluten include but are not limited to wheat berries, durum, semolina, spelt, farro, einkorn and triticale. Gluten is an inflammatory ingredient for two reasons. The first reason is that humans do not have the enzymatic machinery to fully break down, and digest gluten. This leads to spikes in inflammation and antibodies for months after consumption. Secondly, grains containing gluten are some of the most heavily sprayed with glyphosate at the end period of harvest. This makes them toxic and very inflammatory in nature. First and foremost, when it comes to diet: always avoid gluten.

  3. Aspartame

    Aspartame is a non-nutritive, artificial sweetener used in sugar-free products. Even though the FDA “approved” it, it is a known chemical. It is very hard for the body to try to process artificial ingredients like aspartame. It is a known neurotoxin, and the body “attacks” it upon consumption. This attack occurs when the body reacts to ingestion of this toxic chemical by revving up your immune system, going into combat mode and producing mass amounts of inflammation.

  4. Sugar

    It is widely known that consuming processed (refined) sugar is inflammatory. In fact, sugar and refined carbohydrates are the main culprits behind why the Standard American Diet (SAD) is so very inflammatory. A study in the American Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of refined sugars leads to a release of inflammatory molecules in the body called cytokines. Sugar has many names, most of which end in -ose. Don’t be fooled by ingredient labels! Look for sugar in the form of glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose and maltose.

  5. Omega 6 fatty acids

    Omega 6 fatty acids are an essential fat that the body needs in small amounts. The body needs a balance of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Too many omega 6 fatty acids in the diet can be inflammatory and can cause the body to release more pro-inflammatory molecules. Omega 6 fats are typically found in higher amounts in oils like corn, soy, peanut, vegetable, safflower and sunflower oil. This is why we recommend avoiding these oils. Because many processed foods like mayonnaise and salad dressings use these oils, they also contain hidden amounts of inflammatory omega 6 fats.

  6. Casein

    Casein is a major protein found in milk. Recent studies have shown that milk containing A1 β-casein is associated with intestinal inflammation and could worsen gastrointestinal symptoms. Dairy foods in general, especially those containing the casein protein, stimulate widespread, low-grade inflammation in the body. The body is not able to effectively digest this casein protein well and therefore reacts to this protein upon consumption causing the immune system to produce inflammation.

  7. MSG

    MSG is a widely used flavor-enhancing ingredient found in processed foods, sauces, Asian food and fast food. Canned soups, chips, salad dressings and premade sauces often all contain MSG in their products. MSG is a dietary culprit that often causes inflammation in the body and symptoms such as chronic joint pain. In fact, a 2008 study found that when they injected rats with MSG the rats developed inflammation, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease caused directly from liver inflammation.

Do you consume any of these ingredients mentioned above? Take time this week to review all of your food labels and ensure that none of these ingredients are listed. Perhaps, if you don’t already do so, consider following a Paleo diet. Our Paleo Pyramid guide is listed here and it relays all of the important, wholesome foods you can enjoy on the diet of our ancestors as well as the top tips to going Paleo. And if you need diet help, consider scheduling a free coaching consultation with one of the NDH health coaches here.


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