You live to eat; you eat to live. But eating a healthy skin diet to reduce acne? Indeed. It's not quite the adage of, "you are what you eat," but it is true that what you eat affects the way you look and feel. Your skin is the first thing people see when they look at you. Strangely enough, it's considered the largest organ in the human body -- right up there with the intestines, lungs, and liver.
Just as nutritious foods fuel your immune system so it can fight infection, they support your skin defenses too. They give skin the power it needs to help battle acne causing bacteria. See the guide below for the best and worst - eats for clear healthy skin.
(A) Foods to avoid that cause acne - One of the keys to preventing acne is to remove foods and dietary habits that can increase the likelihood of a breakout. Some of these, like greasy foods and spicy meals, are well-known among those who suffer from acne breakouts. Others, though, might come as a surprise. In general, there are a few things that should be avoided in the pursuit of healthier, clearer skin:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Processed foods
- Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages
- Soda - even decaf or diet varieties
- Dairy products
With these foods largely eliminated from the diet, skin can retain its healthy, clear appearance, while acne breakouts will likely decline in frequency and severity.
- White Bread - Any "high glycaemic foods such as pasta, white bread and cakes have recently been linked to an increase in acne according to a recent Australian study, so stick to whole grains. Whole wheat and oats are packed full of antioxidants and have been found to be anti-inflammatory.
- Too much salt - Salt causes tissues to swell and may make your face seem puffy and unhealthy. Iodized salt is especially bad in high doses as it has been shown to aggravate acne. Make sure to check all pre-packaged foods for their sodium content before consuming and make sure to rinse all canned vegetables, meats and beans after opening them to reduce the sodium content.
- Refined sugars - like candy, soda, desserts etc. is loaded with sugar and overeating sugar causes wrinkles and dull skin. How? It damages your collagen and elastin, the super important fibres that keep your skin firm and youthful, causing it to become dry which leads to premature wrinkles and sagging.
- Alcohol or Caffeinated Drinks- too much intake of alcohol and other drinks like coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks should be avoided. It is extremely dehydrating to cells within the body including your skin cells. It also causes "vasodilatation which can be an aggressor for rosacea (a condition in which certain facial blood vessels enlarge, giving the cheeks and nose a flushed appearance).
- Processed foods - like hot dogs, canned soup, instant noodles etc. should be avoided. These have unhealthy fats and carbs which also cause inflammation that damages skin and promotes acne.
- Greasy foods - like chips, fried foods, fast foods, margarine etc. are rich in Trans fatty acids that can boost the production of hormones, which can lead to acne.
(B) Foods to adopt for acne free healthy skin - If you eat too much of any one thing, chances are high it will show literally in your skin. Diet may play a role in exacerbating acne. Remember, changing your healthy skin diet alone won't cure your acne or keep you completely blemish free, but it is a great place to start on your path to a perfect complexion.
- Drink plenty of water - Eight glasses of water a day: You've read it, heard it, suggested it to a friend even, but do you follow this faithful advice daily? The number is actually less important than the concept of keeping your body hydrated all day long. This helps to flush out bad toxins, yes, but also keeps skin dewy and hydrated from the inside out. Your goal should be frequent -- but not bothersome -- urination that is neither totally clear nor gold in hue. Remember, you can easily flavour your water with a lemon or orange slice, mint leaf or cucumber wedge. Still bored? Choose sparkling for a change.
- Dip into Dark - Gummy bears, Tootsie Rolls (chocolate flavored candy): A sweet tooth's dream, indeed. But an acne sufferer's worst nightmare, too, we admit. So rather than indulge in the high-sugar, chewy, gummy candy that lines convenience store shelves, choose dark chocolate, which boasts antioxidants. The relationship between antioxidants and your skin is that, antioxidants work to shield your skin from free radical damage, which jeopardizes the integrity (and health) of your complexion. Find dark-chocolate coated raisins almost anywhere -- peanuts too. Or, you can even make a fondue and dip other goodies into it, like sliced fruit or whole grain pretzels.
- Say yes to yogurt - We know, you think dairy is bad for blemishes. And, certain types (overly-processed varieties, for example) can be. But yogurt that packs probiotics (Greek, Kefir) actually helps to prevent bad bacteria -- which can lead to acne -- from forming in your body. So, you may want to include one or two servings a day. Try a morning smoothie with antioxidant-rich blueberries and yogurt, plus a potassium-packed banana. Or try a strawberry granola parfait with a drizzle of honey for a post-dinner treat, yum.
- Choose veggies wisely - Veggies with high-water content (cucumbers, for example) are said to help acne, and it makes pure sense: Water, we know, is key to flushing-out those clog-poring toxins, plus cucumbers have the added bonus of being "cooling" -- thus, effective in calming down the inflammation associated with pimples. And, reach for orange delights (carrots, sweet potatoes) that are loaded with vitamin A - good for overall detox (skin and body alike). Of course, you can dip carrots and cucumber into olive-and-bean-boasting hummus or low-fat, Greek yogurt. Or, start juicing -- and add herbs into the mix for added health benefit. Sweet potatoes are divine when steamed, mashed or sliced into baked fries - drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Opt for herbs - We're not saying to make every meal a boring blur, but we are suggesting that too much spice - think cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, chilli and more - may exacerbate acne. Luckily, there are loads of other spices and toppers that add flavour without causing a flare-up, like toying with herbs (thyme, rosemary, mint) and low-sugar condiments. Also, when you're dining on typically spicy cuisines, like Mexican or Indian, ask the waiter to keep it mild or put the spice on the side. This way, you are in control of how much heat you put on your plate.
- Coconut Oil - As an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ingredient, coconut oil will help clear up skin flare-ups, moisturize, and boost antioxidant activity, which slows down the aging process.
- Healthy Fats - Fats and oils can provide anti-inflammatory protection and youth-preserving antioxidants. Fatty fish provides hefty helpings of anti-aging omega-3 fatty acids; salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna are among your best bets. Nuts like walnuts, almonds are another great way to incorporate healthy fats, as well as skin-protecting Vitamin E.
Take care of your skin. Eat fresh and healthy to keep it young and glowing. Talk to our Dieticians and Skin Specialists online for healthy skin advises.