Inflammation works a little like sports fans at their team’s championship game. One minute they’re cheering along in the stands, but once the final buzzer goes off to signify their victory, they’re flooding the court in an unstoppable wave—then setting cars ablaze while rioting in the streets.
And just like a harmless movement can balloon into one with disastrous and dangerous outcomes, inflammation’s healing intentions can also get out of hand and ultimately translate into the menacing consequence of sickness and weight gain. Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. It alerts your body to a wound or injury, like when your ankle will start to throb and swell after a sprain, so your immune system can fix it. It’s not just external injuries that cause inflammation, however. Things like a lack of sleep, excessive stress, genetics, and—what might be worst of all—the wrong diet can all contribute to inflammation.
By “wrong diet,” we’re talking about the typical American diet which is full of inflammation-inducing foods. Think: fried foods, refined flours and sugars, hormone- and antibiotic-laden animal products, synthetic sweeteners, and artificial food additives. So if you’re constantly noshing on these items, your body will begin to transition into a state of chronic inflammation. This inflammatory, high-energy diet builds belly fat, reduces levels of gut-healthy probiotics, induces weight gain, causes joint pain, bloating, and fatigue, and has been connected with a host of diseases, from diabetes and obesity to heart disease and cancer. And it gets worse: Once you get belly fat, just like an active volcano, it can start spewing out dangerous substances through a condition called “leaky gut.” These biochemicals, collectively known as adipokines, include many pro-inflammatory chemicals that will continue to worsen inflammation, sending you into a waist-widening downward spiral.
So, if you’ve been struggling to lose weight, and you’ve continued to eat the same foods (yes, even if you are eating less of them), it’s time for a change. And science has an answer for you. Researchers are proving time and time again that fitting in certain foods into your diet may be all that’s needed to counteract the effects of inflammation-perpetuated weight gain. These healing foods attack inflammation by increasing the concentration of beneficial bacteria in your gut, turning off inflammatory genes, and decreasing levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers—many of which will torch fat in the process. Fit these foods into your diet, and you’ll be on your way to a leaner, happier you. And to drop even more pounds, get that belly fat in check with these 30 Best-Ever, Fat-Burning Foods.