9 Foods to Eat and Avoid to Fight Acne
Acne is the most common skin problem that plagues most people at some or the other point in their lives. Adult acne or hormonal acne is not just painful but is also scarring, both to the body and body image.
While a number of factors such as genes, lifestyle, stress levels and improper skincare can cause acne, diet is also a major contributor. Read on to learn what foods are acne-causing and what can help you keep acne at bay.
What is the relationship between food and acne?
Acne occurs due to the clogging of the skin pores with sweat, dirt, dead skin cells and sebum, the natural oil produced by the skin. These clogged pores become infected and inflamed, leading to pimples and lesions.
When the skin produces excess sebum, it becomes prone to acne. Additionally, the imbalance of hormones causes inflammation and breakouts. Diet plays a role in both, controlling sebum levels and balancing out the hormones, thereby indirectly controlling acne.
Another factor responsible for acne is poor gut health which is directly related to the food you eat. If you eat foods that trigger a poor reaction and inflame your gut, you are prone to get acne. On the other hand, eating foods that aid the gut can keep you acne-free for longer periods.
9 foods that cause acne
Our modern lifestyle is filled with foods rich in sugars from sodas to packed juices to little treats – pastries, ice cream, doughnuts, you name it! Why is sugar bad?
Sugar contains simple, refined carbs that get absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This increases the blood sugar levels which in turn increases insulin levels to digest the sugar. Increased insulin is bad news for the skin as it increases sebum production, making the skin more prone to acne.
There is a high correlation between people who eat fast food regularly and those who suffer from acne. While there isn’t any scientific evidence for the cause, the high statistical numbers relating the two are surely enough to avoid high-fat fast foods. Say goodbye to burgers, french fries, hot dogs, chips and all that you survived your teenage days on!
Milk is one of the major culprits of acne as it directly increases insulin levels in the blood, making the skin more prone to acne. In addition, it also contains amino acids that cause hormonal imbalance that trigger inflammation. It is best to steer clear of milk and its products if you tend to have acne.
For reasons unknown, studies have concluded that there is a high correlation between people who eat chocolate and who get acne. It could be because chocolate increases the immune system response to bacteria that cause acne.
Refined grains have a high-glycemic index which means they increase the blood sugar levels. Like sugary foods, they increase insulin production thereby causing acne. Unfortunately, foods rich in refined grains are foods common in our diets – pasta, rice, cereals and bread.
Foods with Omega-6
Omega-6 is a fatty acid that is known to increase inflammation and trigger acne. It is found in soy and corn which also form a big part of the western diet.
Everyone loves coffee because it kicks off the day and gives you the rush and energy to be productive. But this also means that it stresses the body by increasing the blood cortisol level. Cortisol increases sebum production, triggering acne.
Whey protein contains amino acids, which like milk, trigger abnormal insulin levels and result in acne. This is why acne is common among athletes. While there isn’t any conclusive scientific evidence, direct correlations do suggest it’s best to stay away from whey protein to avoid acne.
High fat foods
A high-fat diet isn’t suitable for those with acne. Apart from triggering increased sebum production, high-fat foods also cause inflammation.
9 foods that fight acne
Green tea is a great alternative to high-fat and caffeine-based beverages. It is rich in polyphenols that regulate sebum production to control acne. At the same time, its richness in antioxidants helps healing skin riddled with acne while also reducing the appearance of scars.
Foods with Omega-3
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the skin and reduce chances of a breakout. It regulates the hormones responsible for excess sebum. Omega-3 also improves overall skin immunity to acne-causing bacteria.
Foods rich in omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines and tuna. Plant-based examples include nuts and seeds like flaxseed, walnuts and chia seeds and plant oils like canola oil and flaxseed oil.
You must’ve heard of the saying – ‘yoghurt everyday keeps acne at bay!’. Probiotics are live bacteria that live in our body and promote gut and skin health and immunity. Maintaining and supplementing the gut flora with foods rich in probiotics has shown improvement in acne. Foods rich in probiotics include yoghurt, kefir, sourdough, kimchi, kombucha and pickles.
Prebiotics are foods that support probiotics and keep them in a healthy balance. They are high-fiber foods that aid digestion and control acne development. Examples include apples, bananas, asparagus, leeks, onions and garlic.
Taking prebiotics and probiotics for the skin, especially to fight problems like acne, is showing more and more promise with time. Promoting a healthy gut and skin microbiome of healthy bacteria is the way to go instead of foods, medication and skincare that sterilize them.
It is only obvious that since acne is caused by inflammation, anti-inflammatory foods should help fight acne. Include herbs and spices like turmeric, pepper, garlic, parsley, ginger and cinnamon in your diet to calm inflammations.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that neutralize the toxins that typically trigger acne. They are rich in Vitamins A, C, D, E and zinc which don’t just fight acne but also help the skin heal.
Whole grains have a low-glycemic index and are rich in fiber. They keep the insulin levels in check and reduce the severity of acne. Include whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, buckwheat and oats..
Legumes are nutrient-dense foods that are low in sugar and keep blood sugar levels consistent. All legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, gram and lentils are good foods to fight acne.
Plant-based milk like almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, etc. are great alternatives to dairy. They do not cause the insulin spike or hormonal abnormalities that milk does while still providing you with ample nutrition.