Have you ever banged up a knee or sprained an ankle? What happened next? It swelled, turned red, or felt tender and painful, right? This is called “acute inflammation,” an important part of our bodies’ natural healing process.

Chronic inflammation, however, is completely different. It can be caused by an autoimmune disorder, an untreated injury or infection, or even overexposure to allergens such as pollen. Chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, diabetes, psoriasis, and other illnesses. Symptoms may include fatigue, body pain, joint stiffness, and puffiness in the face, especially under the eyes.

Foods that contribute to chronic inflammation

According to the Arthritis Foundation, many common foods can make chronic inflammation worse. “To help curb chronic inflammation, especially if you are at risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, a registered dietitian or doctor may suggest an anti-inflammatory diet,” explains Jackie Elnahar, RD, Esq., head of Teladoc Health Dietitian Services. “It involves increasing the amounts of food that reduce inflammation and cutting down on foods that trigger it.”

If you have a condition that is affected by inflammation, try limiting or eliminate these foods and ingredients:

  • Artificial trans fat—Look for the term “partially hydrogenated oil” in fried foods, margarines, and snacks such as cookies, donuts, and crackers.
  • Gluten—For people with celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten—a component of barley, rye, and wheat—many restaurants now offer gluten-free dishes, and grocery store product packages indicate if a product is gluten-free.
  • Monosodium glutamate—MSG is commonly used in soy sauces, fast food, prepared soups, and soup mixes.
  • Omega-6 fatty acid—While it’s an essential nutrient, too much omega-6 can trigger inflammation. Be careful when consuming seed and vegetable oils such as corn, grapeseed, peanut, soybean, sunflower, and vegetable. They’re also main ingredients in mayonnaise, salad dressings, and other prepared foods.
  • Processed sugars—Ingredients that end in -ose are probably sugars; they’re found in baked goods, beverages, and fruit juices. High-fructose corn syrup is a processed sugar too.
  • Refined carbohydrates—White flour, white potatoes, white rice, regular pastas, and many low-fiber, sugar-added, processed cereals are classic refined carbs.
  • Saturated fat—Solid at room temperature, saturated fat is contained in animal products: meats, butter, eggs, and full-fat dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

Eat this instead

Now that you know what not to eat, here’s a list of inflammation busters:

Fruits & veggies Protein Other foods
  • Avocado
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Pineapple
  • Tomatoes
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Bone broth
  • Dark chocolate
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green tea
  • Sauerkraut
  • Turmeric

Anti-inflammation breakfast recipe

Eating a nutritious breakfast is a great way to start your day on an anti-inflammatory path. This bright and flavorful fruit and yogurt salad is brimming with ingredients that are high in antioxidants and polyphenols—natural micronutrients found in plants that help our bodies keep inflammation in check. The recipe is very versatile; you can substitute your favorite citrus fruit, add a couple drops of almond or vanilla extract, and mix in herbs and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, mint, or nutmeg.

Citrus salad with ginger yogurt

Serves 6

  • 1 pink grapefruit, peeled
  • 2 large tangerines or Minneola tangelos, peeled
  • 3 navel oranges
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 16- to 17.6-ounce container of Greek yogurt
  • ⅔ cup minced crystallized ginger
  • crushed walnuts (optional, for topping)

Note: Try to save as much juice from the fruits as possible.

  1. Break grapefruit and tangerines into sections. Cut grapefruit sections into thirds; cut tangerine sections in half. Put grapefruit, tangerines, and all juices in a deep bowl.
  2. Cut all peel and white pith from oranges. Slice oranges into ¼-inch-thick rounds, then cut slices into quarters. Add oranges and all juices to the bowl.
  3. Add the cranberries, honey, and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.
  4. Mix yogurt and ginger in a separate bowl. (Fruit and yogurt can be prepared up to one day ahead. Cover separately and keep chilled.)
  5. To serve, spoon yogurt atop fruit and, if desired, sprinkle on crushed walnuts.

Nutrition data per serving: 287 cal, 4 g fat (0 g sat fat), 10 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 60 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 7 g protein

How Teladoc Health can help

Other signs of chronic inflammation may include

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Eczema
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Psoriasis
  • Rash

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, Teladoc Health can help. We also treat a wide variety of non-emergency conditions, from nausea and bronchitis to seasonal allergies and sunburn.

With Teladoc Health, you can get 24/7 access to board-certified physicians anywhere you are. Be sure to check out the notifications feature on our app so that you can stay on top of timely medical issues such as annual flu and pneumonia shot reminders. To check if you have access to Teladoc Health through your health benefits, create your account today.

Updated on March 6, 2023


This portion of the Teladoc Health website occasionally offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Teladoc Health cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical- or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.