If there's anyone who knows how harmful and frustrating inflammation can be, it's Angela Blatteis and Vivienne Vella. They founded Soupure (a company dedicated to creating nurturing, wholesome soups) after realizing how hard it was to find delicious soups that weren't made with cream, preservatives or GMOs. So when we got our hands on their new book, The Soup Cleanse, we were excited to read more about their take on healthy eating. Here's their list of inflammatory foods we should all be avoiding.
Sometimes our bodies' inflammatory response can be a positive thing. It's a process our immune systems use to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that could cause harm.
But while inflammation is a powerful and beneficial short-term response to fight infection, it's very harmful when it becomes chronic. That's when you start seeing damage to the body that manifests in puffiness, stuffiness, bloat, skin eruptions, headaches, cholesterol imbalance, blood challenges, chronic pain, diseases such as heart disease and arthritis, and brain-related conditions.
Toxins, whether from our insides or the outside, can trigger the inflammatory response.
Inflammation is kind of like an iceberg in the ocean — often we see just the tip, but what is really going on is much deeper and pervasive. It can be difficult to pinpoint where inflammation is stemming from, but food can be a huge source of the problem. When you remove foods that are known to cause inflammation — dairy, gluten, corn, and soy, to name just a few — and add foods that quell unnecessary inflammation, you can start to create shifts in the body.
Your skin might also clear up, you'll lose weight, the stuffiness and puffiness will diminish, the bloat will go down, and your body will return to a more balanced state.
Here are five foods we recommend you steer clear of to reduce inflammation:
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains like rye. In breads, it is the “glue” that holds them together. While gluten is not intrinsically bad for you, it’s more a function of how our wheat is grown.
Here in the United States, most strains of wheat are hard for the body to digest, compounded by the fact that they’re genetically modified. Plus, when you strip out all the nutrients of wheat to create white flour, you’re creating a product that’s even more taxing on the body’s systems.
Many people confuse “gluten” with “starch,” since these terms are often used to describe things like pasta and bread. However, some starch is excellent for the body, whereas gluten ... sometimes not so much. Starch is the carbohydrate component found in most foods. Rice, for example, is a gluten-free food but is a starch. So, too, are potatoes, lentils, and quinoa, to name a few.
We believe that including starchy foods in the diet is a good thing, though in moderation.
The casein from cow’s milk is hard for many people’s systems to break down and for most people is inflammatory. It also doesn’t help that many animals are raised with hormones and antibiotics, which compound the inflammatory effect on our bodies. Raw dairy is a different story, and some people can tolerate it.
3. Processed Soy
The challenge with soy is that much of it has been highly processed (think “isolated soy,” which you will find on the label of most processed foods). Another problem is that almost all non-organic soy crops in the United States have been genetically modified.
But the primary concern is that these crops are often sprayed with herbicides, which contains glyphosate, classified as “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organization.
Soy in all its forms can contribute to a host of health challenges. It contains phytic acid, a toxic compound that is challenging for the body to digest. It can inhibit the body from absorbing iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Soy also has protease inhibitors, which can block some of the enzymes the body needs in order to digest protein.
Then there’s the phytoestrogen issue. Research has shown that the estrogen in soy can act as an endocrine disruptor, which can interfere with your body’s hormonal function and lead to things like cancer. And additionally, consider that soy is what they feed to pigs and cows to make them fat. Think about that any time you reach for ice cream, yogurt, chips, or any processed product that warns “made with soy.”
4. Refined and Processed Sugars
These sweeteners have been stripped of any kind of nutrition and they deplete the body as well as trigger and accelerate the aging process. Sugar — and its other forms, like high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice (organic and otherwise), beet sugar, palm sugar, malt syrup, and pretty much any ingredient you see ending in “-ose” — causes inflammation, leads to weight gain and diabetes, and is linked to cancer.
While there is conflicting research about the long-term effects of fake sweeteners on humans, common sense tells us that they’re not doing you or your health any favors. Don’t worry; we won’t take all your sweet treats away. Natural sweeteners such as dates, dried apricots, coconut sugar, raw honey, coconut, and maple syrup can actually benefit the body while still satisfying your sweet tooth.
Otherwise known as monosodium glutamate, MSG is one of the food industry’s favorite ingredients because of its delicious salty, umami flavor that you can achieve with a fraction of the cooking effort.
Unfortunately, MSG is a neurotoxin that disrupts the nervous system. It lurks in processed food and is sometimes hidden behind names like “natural flavor,” “autolyzed yeast,” and “hydrolyzed protein.” Any packaged product that comes with a flavor packet most likely contains MSG.
Excerpted from the book The Soup Cleanse by Angela Blatteis and Vivienne Vella. Copyright © 2015 by Angela Blatteis and Vivienne Vella. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.