Acne Diets 101

Whether they’re called zits, pimples, pustules, or nodules, acne blemishes wreak havoc on the lives of teenagers. Getting through middle school and high school with acne can be tough, especially if a teen has more than a few blemishes. Unfortunately, acne is not just a teenage problem. Some adults never grow out of their acne, leaving them feeling uncomfortable in professional and social situations. While creams, scrubs, face washes, and prescription treatments may work for some people, not everyone needs to use these harsh treatment methods. In some cases, clearing up acne can be as simple as making changes to the diet. These tips will explain which foods to eat and which foods to avoid to get rid of acne.

Beneficial Things to Consume

Acne occurs when dead skin cells do not shed properly, which blocks the pores and allows dirt, oil, and bacteria to build up underneath the surface of the skin. One way to keep dead skin cells from building up is to keep the skin hydrated. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day to keep the pores clear and prevent pimples from forming. Those who follow low-fat diets may actually be causing their acne. The skin needs some fat to stay healthy, so eating very little fat can actually stimulate oil production and cause more pimples to form. This does not mean teens should pig out on burgers, fries, and pizza every day. Instead, choose foods that have monounsaturated or healthy fats. Avocados have a high fat content, but it is healthy fat that helps maintain smooth skin. Walnuts, almonds, and fish also contain healthy fats.

Zinc helps wounds heal faster, so it is also beneficial for clearing up acne blemishes that won’t seem to go away. Teens in the 9 to 13 age group should get 8 mg of zinc per day. The recommendation increases to 9 mg per day for females and 11 mg per day for males ages 14 and up. Several foods contain zinc, so even vegetarians can eat this mineral without consuming meat products. Some of the best sources of zinc are oysters, pork shoulder, fortified cereal, pork tenderloin, cashews, baked beans, low-fat yogurt, chickpeas, Swiss cheese, almonds, whole milk, cheese, chicken breast, kidney beans, peas, flounder, kidney beans, and sole. Selenium plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin and nails. This mineral protects the skin from damage caused by free radicals, which form when oxygen reacts with other substances in the body. Selenium can also help improve acne redness and skin discoloration. Most foods with high concentrations of selenium are animal products, but vegetarians can get this mineral by eating Crimini mushrooms. Other sources of selenium include snapper, cod, tuna, halibut, calf’s liver, salmon, shrimp, turkey, and sardines.

When the body sweats, toxins are expelled through the skin. If these toxins build up, they can clog the pores and allow pimples to form. Eating prebiotic foods prevents this from happening by helping the body digest food properly and absorb essential nutrients. Examples of prebiotic foods include bananas, yogurt, honey, and artichokes.

Things to Avoid Eating

Some people find that certain foods trigger inflammation and cause acne blemishes to form. Several foods cause an inflammatory response in the body, so avoiding these foods can help reduce the number of pimples on the skin. Sugar is a pro-inflammatory agent, which means that it causes inflammation when consumed regularly. Avoid soda, fruit punch, pastries, fruit drinks, candy, and other products made with sugar. Look for products made with maltose, corn syrup, sucrose, golden syrup, and dextrose, as these are all types of sugar.

Some cooking oils contain omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation in the body. These oils include corn oil, cottonseed oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil. Replace these industrial oils with olive oil or macadamia oil. Trans fats also promote inflammation, which means those with acne should avoid deep-fried foods, foods prepared with margarine, fast foods, foods made with partially hydrogenated oil, commercially prepared baked foods, and foods made with vegetable shortening.

After consuming red meat, humans produce a substance that triggers inflammation. This inflammatory response is linked to heart disease, cancer, acne, and other conditions. Limit consumption of pork, lamb, beef, and processed meats such as salami, lunch meat, ham, and sausage. Eating products made with refined grains can also trigger the inflammation that contributes to acne. Avoid white flour, white rice, noodles, white pasta, white bread, pastries, and biscuits. Replace these foods with whole-grain breads, oatmeal, and other products made with whole grains. Dairy products contain hormones that can alter the function of the endocrine system. These hormonal changes may trigger the production of excess oil, which can trap dirt and dead skin cells in the pores. Avoid milk, cheese, and other products made with these substances.

Acne Diet Resources

Zinc: This resource from the Office of Dietary Supplements explains why zinc is important for the skin and gives a list of foods that contain zinc.

Acne: Brown University explains the causes of acne and some of the ways teens can help prevent blemishes from forming.

Diet and Acne Revisited: This resource, written by an expert from the Pennsylvania State University, discusses the link between certain diets and acne.

Principal Proposed Treatments for Acne: NYU Langone Medical Center explains some of the natural ways to treat acne.

Selenium: The World’s Healthiest Foods explains how selenium helps skin and offers a list of the best sources of selenium.

Foods for Healthy Skin: You Are What You Eat: A list of foods that can help improve the appearance of skin.

Acne and Diet: Pacific College of Oriental Medicine examines the relationship between acne and diet and explains how some foods trigger a hormonal response that contributes to acne development.

7 Miracle Foods for Healthy Skin: Keeping the skin healthy is one of the best ways to prevent acne. This article from Ladies’ Home Journal lists seven foods that can improve the health of the skin.

Acne: The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases dispels some of the myths surrounding acne and explains some of the treatments available for the condition.

Herbs and Supplements for Acne: Rush University Medical Center offers a list of supplements and herbs used to treat acne.

Acne: Are Milk and Sugar the Causes? Dr. Mark Hyman explains exactly how milk and sugar can cause acne.

Acne: PubMed Health explains acne in detail, including why it occurs and how those affected can care for their skin.

Acne: Gannett Health Services at Cornell University explains that food can sometimes trigger acne flares.

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