Acne can be hard to control. Sometimes even doctor-prescribed treatments don't do much good. But there are things you can do on your own. Here are some suggestions for what may be the best diet for acne- foods to include, foods to avoid, and a few “questionable" items that may or may not affect the condition of your skin.
Foods to avoid
There are three main groups of foods that can be bad for acne (as well as for your general health)-saturated fats, milk products, and foods that increase your blood sugar quickly. Here are some examples:
- sweets, including candy and cookies
- drinks containing sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, like soda, some teas, and even some “fruit juices"
- foods made with white flour, like white bread, bakery items, and pasta
- white rice
- French fries, potato chips, and pizza
- milk and dairy products, like ice cream, yogurt (which may also contain sugar), and cheese
- milk chocolate
Also, food sensitivities may cause acne flareups. Here are some foods that a lot of people are sensitive to:
- wheat and other grains containing gluten
- foods made with yeast (like most breads and even pizza crust)
- spicy foods
If you think you have a food sensitivity, try cutting out one of these foods and see if your acne gets better.
Foods to include
There are foods that may be good for your acne. Here are a few:
- sweeteners that don't raise blood sugar so quickly, like granualated fructose (available at natural food stores)
- whole-grain products, like whole wheat bread and pasta (if you're not sensitive to the gluten)
- brown rice (in place of white rice)
- lentils and chickpeas
- herbal teas (in place of sodas and other sweetened drinks)
- soy milk and other soy products (in place of milk and dairy products)
- vegetables, especially dark green leafy types
And when you're preparing food, think of what you add and how you cook it. For example, use fructose in place of sugar, or leave the sweetener out entirely. And try steaming, baking, or stir-frying instead of regular frying. That way you'll cut down on the fat used in cooking - that would be on, and in, the food after it's cooked.
These are foods that affect some people but not others.
Chocolate has to be first on the list because so many people have seen their acne get worse after they eat it. But not everyone has. Maybe that's because the cocoa is not what's causing the problem.
Most foods made with chocolate use milk chocolate. Just as the name says, this kind has milk in it, and milk contains hormones that can make acne worse. It usually also has a lot of refined sugar. If you eat milk chocolate in any form, and your face breaks out a few days later, try switching to a form of chocolate that doesn't contain milk and see what happens.
Caffeine is also questionable, probably because it's in chocolate. But chocolate doesn't contain as much caffeine as coffee or tea, so if your acne does react to chocolate but not to coffee or tea, then the caffeine in chocolate is probably not the cause of your breakouts.
Fish. Some kinds of fish, like salmon and tuna, are high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which are recommended for people trying to reduce the inflammation of acne. But some people find that their acne gets worse instead of better when they eat fish. It may be the iodine.
Fish is high in iodine, and iodine has been shown to occasionally have the opposite effect of Omega 3s-it makes inflammation worse. So in the case of fish, it's probably best to give it a try and see what happens. If your acne gets worse, it's probably the iodine, and it might be a good idea to consider fish oil or flax oil capsules as an EFA supplement.
Meat. There's a theory that the hormones in a lot of commercially-raised meat may cause flareups of hormone-related acne. This seems more likely with red meat than with chicken or turkey, but no one's really sure. As with fish, it may be best to try it out. If you think certain meats make your acne worse, try substituting vegetarian sources of protein, or eat only meat from organically-raised or free-range animals.
Acne may be so hard to control because it can be affected by so many different things. But treatment isn't completely out of your hands. Try making a few changes to what you eat and see if it makes a difference. If it does, then you'll know that, at least for you, foods and acne are related. And you'll be on your way to finding the best diet for your acne.
Peggy Adamik is a former RN. She writes about many different health topics, but she's especially interested in holistic therapies. Check out her page The Best Diet for Acne for more information about the relationship between acne and food.