3 ‘Healthy’ Foods that Cause Inflammation

If you consider yourself a healthy eater, you probably think your diet is relatively anti-inflammatory. All that kale and broccoli has got to be worth something, right? But you just might be very wrong about how healthy your food choices are.

Even certain so-called ‘health foods’ can contribute to low-grade inflammatory reactions throughout the body, potentially leading to issues like leaky gut, headaches, joint pain, and even more serious inflammatory diseases.

Figuring out which foods are actually healthy becomes a real challenge—so let’s tackle it head-on! To kick things off, here are three so-called ‘health foods’ that could be behind your brain fog, poor digestion, and fatigue.

3 'Healthy' Foods that Cause Inflammation

1. Store-Bought Non-Dairy Milks

Almond milk, macadamia milk, oat milk—these are all wonderful creations. And that non-dairy milks have gone mainstream enough to ensure that there are at least two different dairy alternatives available in most coffee shops is absolute heaven for the lactose intolerants and vegans among us.

But if you struggle with gastrointestinal inflammation, your non-dairy milk habit may be a culprit.

The problem isn’t the milk itself—it’s the emulsifiers. Emulsifying agents like polysorbate 80 and carboxymethyl cellulose (yep, go check your fridge now) are widely known to promote low-grade inflammation throughout the gut-brain axis, meaning they have the potential to cause gut damage while also impacting brain function.

Think leaky gut, IBS, colitis, brain fog, forgetfulness—no bueno. To avoid these, make your own milk alternatives at home. These emulsifier-free, homemade milks will separate in the fridge, but a quick shake solves that—and it sure beats inflammatory additives!

Oat milk is incredibly cheap to make and easy enough for even a novice to master, especially if you have a super high-powered blender.

3 'Healthy' Foods that Cause Inflammation

2. Dates

Dates are the darling of healthy baking—especially in the paleo world. But they aren’t necessarily the innocuous sweetener they appear to be.

Sure, they contain fiber, but they also contains around 25 grams of sugar per date! Eat more than one—which you almost definitely will—and you’re skyrocketing insulin levels, which leads to inflammation symptoms like mood swings, brain fog, and an energy crash soon after.

Yes, dates contain nourishing nutrients, but they are still a potent source of sugar. It’s best to avoid munching on date-sweetened energy balls all day long. Use dates selectively, as you would any other sugary sweetener.

3 'Healthy' Foods that Cause Inflammation

3. Grapeseed Oil

When people give up vegetable/canola oil in favor of a healthier option, they often turn to grapeseed. But grapeseed oil, even if you don’t heat it, is surprisingly inflammatory.

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in grapeseed oil is incredibly imbalanced, favoring polyunsaturated omega-6s. What’s the problem with that? Aren’t omega-6 fatty acids good for us? Yes, and no.

While omega-6s serve an important function in the body, the American diet is generally overloaded with omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in omega-3s. Ideally, our diets would contain a 2:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. But the modern diet contains more of a 16:1 ratio!

That imbalance of omega-6s can encourage your body to release inflammatory chemicals that wreak havoc. Stick with olive oil or avocado oil, which have more desirable fatty acid profiles, or enjoy coconut oil for cooking.

So, those healthy energy bites you’ve been making may not be so healthy after all. When it comes down to it, it’s best not to overeat any one food, even if it is ‘healthy’.

Eat a diverse diet on the regular to ensure that no foods are causing a problems in your body, and always be wary of the term ‘healthy’. Only your body knows what is truly healthy and not healthy for you. Scour labels and be discerning. Food should be medicine, not the opposite.

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Images via Thinkstock.


Jeanne R
Jeanne R5 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne R5 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Marge F
Marge F24 days ago

Thank you for posting this informative article.

Anne H
Anne H24 days ago


Elisabeth T
Elisabeth T25 days ago

Good information, thanks so much.

Carol C
Carol C27 days ago

Thank you posting this information. I will look further into the emulsifiers issue.

Renata B
Renata B27 days ago

Well, another of these article when you are expected to dedicate your life, full time to look after yourself. We need to be practical. So far I shall continue to buy milks from the supermarket. No time or inclination to slave in the kitchen all day long.

Philippa Powers
Philippa Powers27 days ago

Thanks. Interesting.

Richard A
Richard A27 days ago

Thank you for this article.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga29 days ago