We’re back with the continuation of our two-part series on the link between diet and acne. Check out Part 1 of this post to get the facts about chocolate, dairy, and whether they really affect this pesky skin condition — this week we’re dishing the dirt about starches and fats.
Potential Problem Food #3: Simple Carbs
Science was inspired to investigate these guys after anthropologists found no incidences of acne among the populations they were researching in Papua New Guinea and Paraguay. Think there’s any group of over a thousand Americans that would show up to participate in a study and exhibit no symptoms of acne at all? These scientists attributed their findings to the low glycemic-index diet consumed by the people of these countries. The glycemic index is a measure of how much your blood sugar rises after you consume a certain food, and generally, simple, processed carbs have a very high one. All the processing makes them super easy to digest, so as soon as you’ve consumed a cupcake, for example, all of that sugar is almost immediately loose in your body. The experiment worked exactly how it was expected to, and the citizens of Papua New Guinea and Paraguay who were put on higher glycemic-index diets began to gain weight, develop increased insulin sensitivity, and – you guessed it – break out.
But don’t go Atkin’s on us! Not all carbs are bad. When planning your meals, just think about whether the carbs you’re considering are a) found in nature and b) low in sugar. So, candy: bad. Unprocessed whole grain bread: good. Foods of the first type will inflame your acne – eat all you want of the second type; unless you’re gluten-sensitive, it shouldn’t affect your skin.
Potential Problem Food #4: Saturated Fats
Scientifically airtight studies about this much-maligned food group and its effect on acne are still in development, but what research has been done generally indicates that it’s not how much fat you eat that correlates with the blemishes on your face, but what kinds. Just like with carbs, the solution if you suspect a fatty diet is irritating your skin is not to avoid all fats, but to choose them carefully. We all know what the worst offenders are: fried foods, butter, shortening, animal fat. Keep those to a minimum in your diet for sure. But you also have unsaturated fats like those in olive and vegetable oils, fish such as salmon, and healthy raw nuts. Load up on these, if you like.
While the Omega-6 fatty acids found in saturated fats cause acne for many people by increasing inflammation in the body, the Omega-3 fatty acids in healthier foods can actually calm inflammation. No studies exist yet proving that Omega-3 consumption can help clear up acne, but, you know – it couldn’t hurt.