Nutrition is the cornerstone of healthy living. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine.”While food is no substitute for proven medical treatment, it can help build the foundation of a healthy body—and a healthy body is stronger in the face of stress and illness.

Many diseases—including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis and even some allergies—are associated with an underlying condition of inflammation. Diet and lifestyle can cause the inflammation that ultimately leads to illness. Want to stay healthy? Avoid inflammation by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

What Foods Cause Inflammation?

One of the best ways to eat an anti-inflammatory diet is to avoid foods that are pro-inflammatory—and unfortunately, there are a lot of them. In fact, if you eat a standard American diet, you’re on the fast track to inflammation. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the acronym for such a diet is SAD. Here are the worst offenders:

  • Unhealthy fats: Unhealthy fats promote inflammation. The standard American diet is heavy on trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids, and light on omega-3 fatty acids—which is all backwards. Trans fats are found in processed foods and fast foods. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils that contain linoleic acid, such as corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, wheat germ oil, and sesame oil. Excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats has been linked to inflammation. For optimal health, it’s important to consume fewer omega-6 fatty acids and more omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Refined carbohydrates: Refined flour, sugar, and other foods that are high on the glycemic index increase insulin and glucose levels—thereby, causing inflammation.
  • Allergenic foods: Some foods are more likely to be allergenic than others. Many people are sensitive or intolerant to wheat, gluten, and dairy. Food sensitivities can lead to inflammation. It begins in the gut—but ultimately causes more systemic problems.

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Eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

It’s never too late to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet—even if you’re already suffering from an inflammatory disease. Whether you want to get healthy or stay healthy, start with the most basic “medicine”—food. If you’re ready to say to goodbye to inflammation, here are some steps you can take:

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