The acne-diet connection is real; There's no debating the fact that foods can cause your skin to break out and that by cutting them out you can address those pesky acne woes. Even if you haven't been a victim yourself, you've likely read about some celebrity or influencer swearing by a "miracle" diet for #flawless skin (for Kate Hudson, it was going vegan and for Khloé Kardashian, it was giving up dairy).
"If you’re suffering from acne, chances are your gut is off balance and needs some support," says holistic nutritionist Elissa Goodman.
But not all foods are culprits, and there are some out there that have been wrongfully blamed for breakouts. Rude. For the sake of a clean gut and clean face I picked Goodman's brain to find out which foods are skin-safe and which have been saddled with an unsubstantiated bad rap. Spoiler alert: Chocolate isn't actually as bad as you thought. (Yes, we're cheering too.)
Keep reading for more expert advice on which foods to enjoy and avoid.
So which foods actually do cause acne?
Sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods: Add "skin health" to the long list of reasons to cut back on sugar (which is a carbohydrate), according to Goodman. Consuming too much of it can feed yeast and candida in your body—and that can increase breakouts.
Gluten and wheat products: Goodman says the carb-y stuff, though delicious, can cause inflammation in your gut, which ultimately could lead to pimples on your face.
Milk: Like wheat, conventional dairy can cause your gut to become inflamed, which she says will show itself on your face in the form of acne. (Khloé Kardashian may have been onto something.)
Fried and fast foods: Hydrogenated oils, sodium, chemicals, flavorings, and sugar are present in the traditionally "unhealthy" stuff, which can cause zits to rear their ugly heads, Goodman tells me.
Eggs: If you over-consume eggs it's possible to build up an intolerance to them—and that can cause an inflammatory response, she explains. Plus, non-organic eggs can be full of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, which can also lead to inflammation.
And which foods are A-OK?
Chocolate: Good news, chocolate lovers. Chocolate—AKA nature’s remedy for period cramps and bad days—has been getting the misplaced blame for causing zits for generations. "You likely crave chocolate when you're stressed because it contains minerals that help ease the body,” says Goodman. "Stress can equal acne so this may be a case of pinning the wrong culprit.” However, she notes that chocolate that’s loaded with sugar could potentially cause flare ups, so it’s best to stick to single-source chocolates that are at least 85% cacao.
Nuts: When it comes to snacks of the almond, walnut and pistachio variety, the relationship to acne is… complicated. "They have a similar issue as chocolate, mold and pesticides could be present, that can cause breakouts. When buying nuts make sure they're organic and from a quality source,” says Goodman. "Another issue with nuts is that they can cause breakouts for those with weakened digestive systems. It may not be the nuts themselves that are the issue but rather a leaky gut, which allows proteins into your bloodstream and causes inflammation leading to acne.”
And FYI: the relationship to gut health and acne isn’t just exclusive to nuts. "There are many otherwise healthy foods that can cause the same issue,” says Goodman. "If you're having breakouts from a food first consider quality and then consider that you made need some digestive support.”
Fat: Eating a slice of greasy pizza may not actually cause you to turn into a pizza face. "We have this idea that greasy foods cause breakouts, but that's not the entire picture. Yes, a greasy piece of pizza will probably make your acne worse, but fat itself is not to blame,” says Goodman. "Low quality, hydrogenated oils are.” Goodman notes avocado, coconut, and extra virgin olive oil are healthy fats that can actually help to combat acne, whether you’re eating them or literally rubbing them on your skin.
So what to do? "To eat in a way that eliminates acne, you want to support digestion and eliminate toxic and inflammatory foods," says Goodman. To summarize: If your gut it out of balance, it'll be written all over your face, so consider yourself a detective and work backwards to find the culprit.
Looking for more au natural solutions for your clearest skin ever? Here are our at-home tips for treating a pimple, fast, and the one anti-inflammatory ingredient you should be looking for in your skincare.
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