For years there has been tons of speculation about how eating clean can positively affect your skin and actually rid acne. Some people have long claimed that diet directly affects acne, but only recently have researchers started to find evidence that this is indeed true. Incredibly, the first studies to prove just that didn’t come out until just 2007 and 2010, respectively. Scientists found that cow’s milk and dairy product intake increase both acne prevalence and severity, and they also discovered an association between a high-glycemic load diet and increased acne risk. Further studies showed drastic improvements to acne when the test subjects switched from eating what sadly is considered to be a “typical American diet” (consisting of white bread and highly processed breakfast cereals) to that of a healthier diet, consisting of whole grains, lean meat, and fruits and vegetables. Finally there was scientific proof that subjects who ate a low-glycemic index diet could improve their acne by more than 50 percent exclusively from eating a clean food diet, which incredibly holds a higher success rate than that of the success achieved with topical acne solutions alone. Pretty amazing what just eating whole clean food can do, huh?
It’s probably much easier to identify the foods that are the culprits of increased acne production rather than the ones that are deemed “safe”, so I will do just that. The top 4 foods that are most guilty of increasing breakouts are listed below. We at Modern Proteins challenge you to cut them out of your diet and avoid them for one week (two if you can go that far – yes, you can) to see if you notice a difference in your skin and/or acne flair ups. Bet you will!
- Dairy products/Cow’s milk: The correlation here is pretty simple. Ingesting dairy products spike your blood sugar, which in turn can increase inflammation (leading to pimples) as well as insulin levels, which encourages the production of skin oils (sebum), which is responsible for clogging pores and causing breakouts. Much of the commercial milk we buy from the grocery store comes from pregnant cows, and thus contains other hormones that trigger the production of sebum. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Milk also contains growth hormones that have been determined to encourage the overgrowth of skin cells, potentially blocking pores, as well. In 2005, a study found that subjects who drank more milk had much higher rates of severe acne than those who drank little or no milk. The proof is in pudding. Or ice cream. Or milkshake. Whatever. Just try to avoid dairy as much as possible.
- Sugar: You probably suspected that sugar is directly related to breakouts…and you are exactly right! It ultimately comes down to how much sugar you’re eating in a day—particularly at any one time. Too much sugar in one sitting can lead to almost instantaneous breakdowns due to inflammation of the skin. What does that mean? It means don’t eat a candy bar while washing it down with a Coca Cola unless you want an encore of pimples emerging on your face post-meal. And sugar isn’t just found in candy and soda – it’s hidden in numerous foods and beverages that you consume daily probably without even having any knowledge of it. Be more mindful of what you eat and drink and we guarantee that with the elimination of such foods, you’ll see an elimination in acne.
- High-glycemic foods: High-glycemic foods break down quickly in the body, which triggers an insulin spike and raises blood sugar levels. High-glycemic foods also trigger hormonal fluctuations and inflammation—both of which encourage acne. High-glycemic foods consist of starches, white bread, processed breakfast cereals, white rice, pretzels, potato chips, cookies and cakes. (All the junk stuff.)
- Fast food: Greasy fast food creates inflammation in the body. Studies have already directly linked fast food to conditions like childhood asthma, strictly because of its ability to raise overall inflammation in the body. Inflammation leads to pimples, so if you’re going to a fast-food restaurant, choose the salad or the yogurt. Or just don’t eat there at all and eat a Modern Proteins meal if you are prepared enough to have one on you.
The good news? Modern Proteins meals offer only low-glycemic foods, therefore eliminating any confusion when you’re choosing your meals online. The only problem? There’s tons of low-glycemic options, so you might have a hard time narrowing it down. (First-world problems at its best!)
It’s relatively easy to eliminate the acne-inducing foods listed above, but what if you’re already eating healthy and acne still plagues you? (My personal dilemma.) Are there any certain foods that you could add to your diet to help give you an edge against the acne fight? The answer is a thankful YES! Try adding the following to your diet to help improve the quality of your skin:
- Fish or flaxseed: The typical Western diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids, which are tied to inflammation. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and the like, can help reduce inflammation as well as lessen acne breakouts.
- Green tea: Studies show that green tea can help the fight against acne. The antioxidant EGCG, which is found in green tea, when applied can reduce sebaceous (oil glands), which are usually enlarged in people with acne. Studies also showed that EGCG reduced sebum production, as well as improved acne in an 8-week randomized, split-face, clinical trial. Drinking more green tea throughout the day, and try applying cooled tea bags or a cloth dipped in cooled green tea to acne-prone areas of your face for 10-15 minutes can help your skin dramatically. Give it a try and you’ll see a difference within days!
- Oysters: Several studies have indicated that the mineral zinc may reduce the effects of acne. It’s most ideal to get zinc directly from your food, however, more than 100 mg a day via a supplement can result in unwanted side effects. Eat more oysters, toasted wheat germ (sprinkled on salads and steamed veggies), veal liver, roast beef, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, as well as dried watermelon seeds.
- Juicing: Many varieties of both fruits and vegetables can naturally help to clear up acne. Many of these foods contain beta-carotenes, which naturally help reduce skin oils, and are naturally anti-inflammatory. Dark, leafy greens (kale & spinach) can also help clear toxins from the body, which can encourage acne. Dark-colored berries contain phytonutrients, which are fantastic for the skin.
- Probiotics: These amazing healthy bacteria have been found to reduce inflammation in the gut, which may help reduce acne. According to a 2011 study, intestinal microflora may affect inflammation throughout the body, which in turn, can affect acne breakouts. Probiotics can aid in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress and scientists believe that they may actually help reduce and even prevent acne breakouts. To get more probiotics in your diet, try yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, microalgae, miso soup, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, and kombucha tea.