If you’ve already given up fried bacon and grilled steak to reduce saturated fat in your diet, there may be another good reason to continue to avoid these foods. Foods typically cooked at high temperatures, like meats, may contribute to the risk and exacerbation of chronic diseases linked with inflammation. Research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York shows that frying or grilling certain foods at high temperatures produces compounds that can increase inflammation in the body.

The compounds, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), are known to be scoundrels, showing up in the blood of people with chronic diseases associated with inflammation, including diabetes, heart disease, RA and OA. AGEs detected in blood were thought to come solely from our body’s natural supply of AGEs, but – here’s the bad news – now scientists have found that foods cooked at high temps create AGEs that can be absorbed by the body. Perhaps 10 percent of AGEs we get from eating seared burgers and fried chicken may be absorbed.

“We expect that increased levels of AGEs increase inflammation, although a direct link to arthritis is not firmly established,” says Jaime Uribarri, MD, the Mount Sinai physician who led the study. This news doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite breakfast meat or get rid of the barbecue forever. “Just diminish your exposure,” advises Dr. Uribarri.

To achieve a lower AGE diet, try the following:

  • Limit the amount of grilled, broiled, fried and microwaved meats in your diet.
  • Reduce the cooking temperature of meats and proteins. Steam fish and seafood, simmer chicken in a sauce and braise red meat in a cooking liquid.
  • Cut down on processed foods. Many prepared foods have been exposed to a high cooking temperature to lengthen shelf life, so they may have high AGE contents.
  • Get more fruits and veggies in your diet. Cooked or raw, they’re naturally low in AGEs, and many contain compounds such as antioxidants that can decrease some of the damage done by AGEs.