While inflammation is a natural function that allows for healing and defense within the body, it can often get out of control and become chronic.

This can last for quite a long time!

Chronic inflammation can affect your overall health and lead to a variety of health problems…

Such as:

  • autoimmune disorders


  • cardiovascular disease

What you eat is the number one cause of inflammation! So while you may be following the keto diet, it’s also just as important to steer clear of foods that will cause inflammation.

In this article, we’re going to review what exactly inflammation is, and the top five inflammatory foods you want to avoid – whether on the keto diet or not.

So What is Inflammation, Anyway?

As mentioned earlier, inflammation plays a key role in allowing your body to defend itself from things like illness and infection.

Part of the inflammatory response includes the body boosting the production of immune cells and white blood cells, along with cytokines. All of these help us fight infection.

Some clear indications of short-term inflammation include swelling and redness. Long-term (chronic) inflammation does not offer any such obvious symptoms, unfortunately, but CAN lead to:

  • diabetes [1]
  • heart disease [2]
  • and more health conditions

Top Five Inflammatory Foods

There are certain factors that can greatly increase inflammation such as our diet. But besides eating the wrong foods and drinking too many sugary or alcoholic drinks, an inactive lifestyle will also increase inflammation.

Here are some of the worst foods that, by eating habitually, will promote inflammation.

#1 Sugar

It may not come as a big surprise that sugar is one of the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation.

The two main types of added sugar people tend to consume regularly are sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup.

These kinds of added sugars can and will lead to an increase in inflammation that can be very harmful for our bodies.

In one study in particular, mice were given a diet with high-fructose which led to them developing breast cancer due to sugar’s inflammatory agents [3].

Sugar can also be damaging due to its high amount of fructose. While there are small amounts of this sugar in fruits and veggies, that’s ok!

It’s only when you over-consume fructose through added sugars that you’re entering the danger zone.

#2 Vegetable Oils

There is a common misconception that all oils are created equal…

They are not.

The truth is, there are good oils—like coconut oil, avocado oil, and virgin olive oil—and there are bad oils—like vegetable oils.

Unlike your healthy oil varieties, seed and vegetable oils are highly processed and are usually derived from foods using solvents such as hexane. Just to give you an idea of how unhealthy this is, hexane is an ingredient in gasoline.

Some unhealthy vegetable oils that are made in this way include sunflower, canola, peanut, corn, soybean, and sesame oils.

What causes these oils to be inflammatory?

It’s their high omega-6 fatty acid content. While omega-6 can be a healthy component in our diet, people often consume far more than they need.

The fatty acids you really want to be eating more of are omega-3s. This can be found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and also in nuts and seeds.

#3 Refined Carbs

While carbs are a big no-no on the keto diet, there is room for a very small amount of them… So, consume those carbs wisely and avoid refined carbs at all costs.

If you’re indulging in a little bit of carb action, you always want to opt for high-fiber and unprocessed carbs. Refined carbs, on the other hand, promote inflammation.

This includes foods like:

  • white bread, flour, & rice
  • pasta
  • sodas
  • snacks
  • added sugars

They are also commonly thrown into processed foods, which is just another reason why you shouldn’t be eating foods that are processed.

The fiber in refined carbs is mostly removed, which is not a good thing. Remember, fiber is what gives you that full feeling and comes with other health benefits, like improving blood sugar levels.

Additionally, refined carbs have a higher glycemic index than healthy carbs, which can raise blood sugar levels more.

Overall, you want to do your best to stay away from all carbs, as they can mess with your ketosis and keto progress, but you especially want to stay away from refined carbs since they really have nothing good to offer your body.

Related: How to Find Hidden Carbs on a Ketogenic Diet

#4 Too much alcohol

The keto diet isn’t good friends with alcohol.

All is not lost!

There are some boozy beverages that you can get away with. These include wines low in sugar and pure spirits like vodka and whiskey, which do not contain carbs.

With that said, consuming too much of any alcohol can be harmful to your body because it leads to some problems, such as inflammation.

People who drink an excessive amount of alcohol will often develop a condition called leaky gut. This drives inflammation that can result in harm to our organs [4].

To avoid any health problems related to alcohol, try to limit your consumption to just one or two drinks a day.

#5 Processed Meat

You may be surprised to see meat on this list. After all, the keto diet is all about upping your meat intake, right?

Well, sort of..

Just like with carbs and sugar, there is good meat and there is bad meat.

Processed meats, like hot dogs, sausages, canned meat, and ham, are often modified in order to improve the taste or to increase its shelf life.

While it may taste good, you should avoid consuming processed meat since it is associated with a variety of health conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • stomach cancer
  • and even heart disease

They contain many inflammatory compounds, such as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which are created by cooking the meat at high temperatures and increase inflammation.

Final Thoughts

While many people have a general idea of what to eat and what not to eat, it’s important to understand why some of these foods are so bad for our health.

Added sugars, vegetable oils, refined carbs, alcohol, and processed meats—they might taste good, but they’re harmful to your body in a variety of ways.

Craving sugar?

Have something healthier like berries!

Want to cook up your meal in some tasty oil?

Opt for coconut, avocado, or virgin olive oil, which are much healthier and have their own wealth of benefits.

Feel like a boozy night cap?

Enjoy a dry wine or zero carb spirit, and limit yourself to just one or two for the day.

Ready to chow down on some keto-friendly meats like bacon and sausage?

Go for it. Just read your labels and make sure you’re buying products that aren’t highly processed.

I think you get the idea!


[1] Kolb H, Mandrup-Poulsen T. The global diabetes epidemic as a consequence of lifestyle-induced low-grade inflammation. Diabetologia. 2010 Jan;53(1):10-20. doi: 10.1007/s00125-009-1573-7. Epub 2009 Nov 5.

[2] Thomas A. Pearson , George A. Mensah, and other authors. Markers of Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease. Application to Clinical and Public Health Practice: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association. Vol 107: #3.

[3] Jiang Y, Pan Y, Rhea PR, Tan L, Gagea M, Cohen L, Fischer SM, Yang P. Cancer Res. A Sucrose-Enriched Diet Promotes Tumorigenesis in Mammary Gland in Part through the 12-Lipoxygenase Pathway. 2016 Jan 1;76(1):24-9. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-3432.

[4] Wang HJ, Zakhari S, Jung MK. Alcohol, inflammation, and gut-liver-brain interactions in tissue damage and disease development. World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Mar 21;16(11):1304-13.