Inflammatory foods can cause issues for a number of health conditions, ranging from types of arthritis through to IBS, there’s a lot of reasons when you could need to be careful about what you eat. Especially around Christmas. Now, we’re not saying that you have to cut out everything you love, that simply isn’t a sustainable approach to life. But, it probably is a good idea for a lot of people to pick the things they really want to keep and avoid some of these inflammatory foods at Christmas.
It's also a nice idea if you have guests that should avoid inflammatory foods to consider them and keep these foods in mind, making sure to offer some alternatives.
The good news is that white meats like turkey are usually pretty safe, so the classic bird is safe from the inflammatory foods chop.
Processed Foods: Inflammation in a Package
Processed and fried foods are often packed with chemicals, additives, and unhealthy fats. Unfortunately a lot of people grab quick ready made snacks that are simply heated up in the oven to bulk out their Christmas spread. And these can negatively impact gut health and promote inflammation.
Where possible make things like pigs in blankets yourself or opt for whole, unprocessed foods and that way we can reduce our intake of these inflammatory culprits.
Refined Sugars: Inflammatory Sweeteners
Refined sugars, commonly found in xmas candy, pastries, and sugary drinks, can cause a spike in blood glucose levels. This in turn leads to an inflammatory response in the body.
And yes it’s Christmas, but if you have an inflammatory condition then you need to err on the side of caution to avoid flare ups. As such minimizing or avoiding these sweet treats can help keep inflammation in check.
Trans Fats: The Sneaky Inflammation Promoters
Trans fats, found in many processed foods, are known to raise LDL cholesterol and lower "good" HDL cholesterol. These fats can contribute to inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease.
It's important to read food labels carefully and avoid products that contain partially hydrogenated oils a common source of trans fats. What you’ll be wanting to avoid is the cheaper vegetable oils and cook in the healthier options where possible.
For example some healthier fat sources include as olive oil, avocado, and nuts to reduce inflammation and promote heart health.
Natural fat or lard can be better than a lot of cheaper vegetable oils too.
Alcohol: A Holiday Problem
While alcohol is a common component of holiday celebrations, for most it’s pretty much a requirement, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to inflammation and disrupt gut health.
Overgrowth of bacteria in the gut microbiome, caused by alcohol, can increase the production of harmful endotoxins, leading to inflammation.
Fermented alcohol is generally less of an issue, but it’s important to drink in moderation or avoid it all together, especially if you have a condition like Gout.
Dairy and Gluten: Only for Specific Intollerances
Dairy and Gluten aren’t going to cause issues for everyone, but they are worth noting for the people who they do.
Healthy Substitutes for Holiday Favorites
Now that we've identified the worst culprits in terms of inflammatory foods to avoid, let's explore some healthier alternatives that will still satisfy your taste buds during the holidays.
Eggnog: A Lighter Twist
Store bought eggnog is often loaded with heavy cream, alcohol, and refined sugars, which is pretty much everything you want to avoid in one place.
Instead, try making your own eggnog using organic soy or rice milk or at least reducing the amount of sugar used. Add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract to enhance the natural sweetness.
Rolls and Buns: Choose Whole Grains
Refined grains found in rolls and buns can cause inflammation due to their high glycemic index.
Opt for sprouted grain bread or buns where possible. These tend to retain more nutrients and have a lower impact on blood sugar levels. There are other alternatives such as cloud bread, but this is generally harder to find or requires a fair amount of extra time.
Gravy: Whip Up Your Own
Commercially processed gravy often contains additives, preservatives, and high amounts of sodium, which can promote inflammation. Some brands are however not as bad as others, so you can simply opt for a better version.
Ideally make your own gravy using homemade or store-bought organic broth. This way, you can control the ingredients and ensure a healthier, flavorful alternative. And home made gravy generally tastes better anyway.
Cranberry Sauce: Sweeten Naturally
Canned cranberry sauce is typically loaded with high fructose corn syrup, a highly refined sweetener known to promote inflammation so once again making your own is generally a better option. Prepare your own cranberry sauce using fresh or frozen cranberries and sweeten it with natural alternatives like maple syrup or coconut sugar.
Mashed Potatoes: Lighten Up
Traditional mashed potatoes made with milk and butter can be high in saturated fats and inflammatory for some individuals. Try mixing potatoes with cauliflower before pureeing and use vegetable or chicken broth along with a healthier fat like ghee for a creamy and flavorful alternative.
Bread Stuffing: Upgrade the Ingredients
Traditional bread stuffing made with white bread and butter can be a pro-inflammatory side dish. Opt for whole sprouted grain bread, olive oil, and cooked lentils to create a vegan-friendly stuffing that's equally delicious. Gluten-free bread can also be used for those with specific dietary needs.
Pies with Healthier Crusts
Commercial pie crusts often contain unhealthy fats and refined flours, which can contribute to inflammation. Make your own crust using proper butter (not a vegetable spread), lard or coconut oil and choose unbleached or gluten-free flour alternatives.
White Meat Over Red
Whilst most people go for the classic turkey either way, red meat is generally worse for anti inflammatory diets, so keep this in mind.
Health Conscious Cookies
Traditional holiday cookies can be loaded with inflammatory ingredients like refined flours, sugars, and artificial additives.
Try healthier alternatives like gluten-free biscotti, coconut macaroons, gingerbread cookies, or chocolate peppermint truffles. Alternatively, a colorful fruit platter can be just as enjoyable and nutritious for dessert.