Surprising Connection Between Your Diet and Inflammation – Must Know

It is no secret that your diet plays a huge role in your overall health, but did you know that that there is a surprising connection between your diet and inflammation?

This article explores the link between what you eat and how they can trigger or even aggravate inflammation, and shares some tips for adjusting your diet to promote better health.

Check Your Understanding of Inflammation

What exactly is inflammation?

It is a natural response triggered in our bodies to protect us from injuries, infections, or harmful substances. It is like a warrior defense mechanism that kicks in when something’s not right in the body – which is a good thing.

However, problems arise when this inflammation becomes chronic or persistent, as it can lead to various health issues like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.

This then begs an answer to the question – what causes persistent inflammation in the body? You might be surprised to learn that the food we eat can significantly impact the level of inflammation in our bodies.

Some foods can actually promote inflammation, while others can work like warriors to keep it in check. Think of them as the bad guys and the good guys.

The Bad Guys – Connection Between Your Diet and Inflammation

One of the major culprits in promoting inflammation is the infamous “S” word – Sugar! Yes, that sweet, tempting devil we all love can wreak havoc on our bodies when consumed in excess. But of course you already know that!

Nevertheless, we still find it hard to keep away from it. Yes, and that includes brown sugar as well!


Sugar triggers the release of pro-inflammatory substances and can contribute to chronic inflammation if we’re not careful.

When you consume sugary foods or drinks, especially those with a high glycemic index (which means they cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels) setting off a series of metabolic reactions. Here is what happens in 5 distinct steps in simple language:

1. Release of Insulin

When you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar levels rise quickly. In response to this surge, the pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that helps body cells take up glucose (sugar) for energy.

2. Triggers Inflammation

Consuming too much sugar can lead to repeated and prolonged spikes in blood sugar levels. Over time, this constant cycle of high blood sugar and insulin release can lead to a condition called insulin resistance.

In insulin resistance, our cells become less responsive to the insulin’s signal to take up glucose for energy. This results in higher blood sugar levels, which can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation.

3. Pro-Inflammatory Substances are Produced

One of the key players in this inflammatory response is a molecule called C-reactive protein (CRP). When inflammation is present in the body, the liver produces more CRP, so consuming too much sugar intake can contribute to this increase in CRP levels. Therefore an elevated CRP is a marker of inflammation.

4. Promote Oxidative Stress

Sugar consumption can also lead to what is referred to as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals (unstable molecules) and antioxidants (molecules that neutralize free radicals).

High blood sugar levels can promote the production of these free radicals, which can damage cells and tissues and trigger inflammation.

5. Reaction with Proteins in the Body

Sugar molecules can also react with proteins in our bodies, creating harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs can promote inflammation and contribute to various chronic diseases.

Chronic inflammation, as opposed to acute inflammation (which is a normal and necessary response to injury or infection), is linked to a range of health issues.

It can play a role in the development of conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even some neurological disorders.

Cautionary Note about Sugar – Your Diet and Inflammation

Note that while sugar consumption is a significant factor, chronic inflammation is a complex process influenced by various lifestyle and genetic factors.

However, reducing sugar intake and choosing a balanced diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods can be a powerful step towards taming inflammation and supporting overall health.

Remember, everything in moderation is usually the key to maintaining a healthier lifestyle. So, cutting out all sugar is not necessary, but being mindful of your sugar intake and choosing healthier alternatives can go a long way in keeping inflammation in check!

Refined Carbohydrates

But inflammation is not only caused by sugar. Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and pastries can also contribute to the inflammation party.

The body breaks them down quickly, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels, which of course can lead to increased inflammation over time.

Trans Fats and Processed Meats

Now, let’s talk about the big bad guys of the inflammation story: trans fats and processed meats.

Trans fats, often found in hydrogenated oils used in processed and fried foods, can drive up inflammation levels and wreak havoc on your health.

Furthermore, processed meats like sausages and bacon contain harmful compounds that can trigger inflammation in the body. So, it is just best to limit their consumption or avoid them altogether.

The Good Guys – How they Impact Your Diet and Inflammation

Now, let’s take a look at the good guys!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are like the Knights of the anti-inflammatory world. You can find these healthy fats in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as well as in chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

Omega-3s can help reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals, keeping inflammation at bay.

Antioxidant Fruits and Vegetables

We also have colorful, antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables such as berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and other vibrantly colored foods. These all contain powerful antioxidants that combat inflammation and help repair cellular damage.

Dark Chocolate and Red Wine – Surprising Connection between Diet and Inflammation

A fun twist many will love……..

Dark chocolate and red wine have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties too, thanks to their high antioxidant content. Of course, moderation is key, but it is nice to know you can indulge a little and not fall into the pit of inflammation.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Another superstar in the anti-inflammatory world is extra virgin olive oil. It contains a compound called oleocanthal, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects similar to ibuprofen.

So, drizzle that liquid gold on your salads and dishes for some delicious health benefits.


So now that you better understand the surprising connection between your diet and inflammation, the key takeaway here is that what we put on our plates can either fuel inflammation or fight it off. There are lots of useful recipes that can help you win this battle.

So, be mindful of your food choices and opt for a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet to keep your body happy and healthy. Your body will love you for it! Check out a lengthy list of anti-inflammatory foods in a previous article.


Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Women’s Health Watch (2020) Foods that fight inflammation

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