I’ve always thought it so strange that experts in dermatology kept saying that diet has nothing to do with the way our skin looks or that there are no connections between diet and acne. Yet, based on a personal experience, I know that what I eat affects my skin. In fact, what I used to eat contributed to my acne because as soon as I cleaned my diet up, my acne also stopped popping up. So surely it behooves us to understand how to eat right in order to keep acne at bay.
It so happened that this is a good time to discuss this topic because a study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has determined that there is increasing evidence of a connection between diet and acne, particularly from high glycemic load diets and dairy products (source).
Culling information from studies between 1960 and 2012 that investigated diet and acne, investigators concluded that a high glycemic index/glycemic load diet and frequent dairy consumption are the leading factors in establishing the link between diet and acne. They also note that although research results from studies conducted over the last 10 years do not demonstrate that diet causes acne, it may influence or aggravate it.
So with this info as the backdrop, let’s look at the 6 food rules to eat right and blitz those nasty zits!
1. Avoid high glycemic index foods
So naturally, the first rule of eating right to avoid acne is to choose a low glycemic index diet because that’ll keep your blood sugar low. For those who have not heard, the glycemic index provides a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels (levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food. The reason you want to keep your blood sugar low is because an elevated blood sugar stimulates your body to pump out insulin, which then triggers a cascade of hormonal effects, including elevated levels of androgens or acne-causing male hormones and excess oil, which lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
Example of foods that are high on the glycemic index measuring 70 or more include refined grains, cakes, muffins, pastries, white rice, sugary beverages, processed snacks, amongst others. On the other hand, foods like oats, sweet potatoes, vegetables, carrots, most fruits, chickpeas, barley bread, amongst others are low on the glycemic index, measuring 55 or lower. You can look up this list from Harvard Medical School for an idea.
2. Avoid milk and dairy products
Even though milk is low on the glycemic index, yet dairy products have been shown to elevate insulin production. You may also want to avoid drinking milk (especially the full-fat ones) because it is full of cow hormones that can affect your skin the same way as human hormones. At one time, my acne was caused by my increased intake of dairy so yes, eating cheese and butter do bring about an increase in zits.
3. Avoid foods containing iodine
If you’re a lover of eggs, I’ve got bad news for you. Though eggs are actually great for skin, it is no good for those who are acne prone because it is high in iodine. The same is true of foods high in salt content. In fact, according to Acne Research Institute, iodine found in food and vitamin supplements irritate the pore lining. But iodine is not only found in very salty foods such as preserved prunes and chips, but also in diary products like milk, cheese and yogurt as well as seafood like seaweed and oyster.
4. Avoid foods high in Omega-6 fatty acids
The more omega-6 fats in your diet, the more your skin can suffer inflammation, which can aggravate acne. The top sources of omega-6s to avoid are soybean oil, corn oil, vegetable oil and cottonseed oil, which are chief ingredients in margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise, processed foods and many so-called “heart-healthy” foods.
5. Eat more zinc-rich foods
Zinc is a natural anti-inflammatory as well as an inhibitor of P.acnes bacteria. Studies suggest that people with acne have lower-than-normal levels of zinc in their bodies. Studies have also shown that both topical and/or dietary zinc found in food may provide relief for those with acne issues. By adding more zinc to your diet such as lean red meat, oysters, crab, lentils, and peanuts, you can fight inflammation and acne-causing bacteria. And try to get your zinc direct from the food source rather than via supplements.
6. Eat more omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 is also a natural anti-inflammatory and can curb the hormone associated with increased oil production and clogged pores. So eating fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines and anchovies provide excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids good for those who are acne prone.
My experience with eating right
I can tell you from experience that trying to eat right is not an easy process but it does help to get rid of those pesky acne for good. However, after you’ve gotten rid of them, maintaining status quo is quite something else. I for one, often fall back to eating things I shouldn’t be eating even though I ought to know better. Oh well…whenever that happens, I usually resort to the excuse that some rules are just meant to be broken! (-_-;)