“Keep calm and love your skin”
Acne is one of the biggest skin disorders a lot of us face and we wish the perils of acne-prone skin would just fade away forever. However, as acne (acne vulgaris) is a chronic skin condition that normally appears in adolescence, it can continue even when you’re in your thirties and forties.
Acne can be classified as mild, moderate or severe and often leads to scarring and the reasons behind this skin condition are either genetic, hormonal, lifestyle issues like smoking etc., or even psychological due to high stress levels.
I had mild acne when I was a teen as my skin was inclined towards the oily side, and thankfully it subsided with age and proper face cleansing and food habits. However, they did leave some marks. As we know, there are many topical treatments to cure acne including creams and lotions etc., but while all that is great to cure, one must pay extra attention towards what food they consume if they want to keep acne at bay in the long run. Just like the case with any other skin care routine, a lot of emphasis is given on eating the right food as ultimately what goes in our stomachs determines how our skin looks and feels to a great extent. For instance, if we keep on eating rich, fried food regularly, yet wonder why the face creams aren’t working, well that’s a no brainer! A wholesome skincare routine involves the usual exfoliation, cleansing, toning, moisturizing, and not to forget litres an litres of water along with consuming nutritious food.
Now, it is a myth that one should completely avoid aerated drinks, chocolates and fried food as these could cause acne. They can aggravate acne or lead to it, but they can be taken in moderation. Since, acne forms when too much of the sebum gets clogged in the hair follicle, we must ensure we are eating food that contains the right nutrients to regulate our sebum flow. So, don’t worry about having to quit your favourite foods altogether, just ensure you don’t go overboard. A lot of foods cause the body’s sugar levels to rise, which in turn, causes the production of insulin and excess of insulin in the bloodstream can cause pore-clogging cells and increase in sebum secretion. In this post, let’s explore some of the food options that can help fight acne by maintaining a balance in the hormones and prevent inflammation of the skin.
Food rich in Vitamin A (Retinol)
Fruits and veggies are considered good for the overall diet of an individual, especially when trying to combat acne. As opposed to processed and refined foods such as white sugar, pasta and flour, fresh vegetables and fruits help in controlling the hormones, therefore controlling acne. Deficiency of vitamin A causes the skin’s glands to produce more sebum, and as we already know that can lead to acne formation.
Food rich in Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy vegetables such as kale, squash (butternut), tuna fish, and mangoes and so on we can keep a check on the acne producing cells.
Food rich in Vitamin B
Brown rice is an excellent source of nutrition. It not only contains Vitamin B, but also provides ample magnesium and protein. Vitamin B acts as our skins stress fighter, thus, resulting in hormone balance, less secretion of sebum and zero skin breakouts. Vitamin B includes Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folic acid, Vitamin B6 and B12; however, it is the Vitamin B6 which is the best for preventing acne.
Incorporate foods such as whole grains, prunes, apricots, bananas, and green leafy vegetables like spinach for your Vitamin B6 intake. One great vegetable intake which will help fight acne is broccoli. Not only does it contain Vitamin B, but also Vitamins A and E and helps attack any radical damage of the skin.
Food rich in Vitamin C
Fresh foods contain a host of nutrients and vitamins such as Vitamin C which is found in oranges, tomatoes and melons. Vitamin C won’t cure acne, but this helps in protecting the skin walls, thus, preventing scarring, which I know is a common problem with acne-prone skin. Bioflavonoids, which are found in these Vitamin C rich-foods, act as natural anti-inflammatories which prevent the painful redness that acne brings.
Artichokes are also rich in Vitamin C and clear toxins from the body, and although you may not find this at your local sabzi bazaar, you will find it at the grocery stores that sell variety of foods from across the globe such as the food stores in your malls etc.
Food rich in Vitamin E
Almonds, eggs and leafy green vegetables, for example, are some food items that are rich in Vitamin E which serves as an antioxidant. Vitamin E helps in the prevention of cell damage caused by acne. Now, as Vitamin E is mostly predominant in oily foods, it is advisable to incorporate some oils in your daily diet even if you’re on a low fat diet. That’s why I said earlier, avoiding oily foods or chocolate etc. completely isn’t the best thing. People who eat salads, for example, should drizzle some Olive Oil over it so that they are getting their Vitamin E intake. Another great food source of Vitamin E is nuts which are abundant in an antioxidant called Selenium. Some great nuts to consume would be Brazil nuts and Almonds.
Avocados are abundant in both Vitamin E and C. Berries such as blueberries or any other wild berry contains ample Vitamin E as well as antioxidants. So, get your hands on these fresh berries wherever you can even if it’s generously sprinkled on your favourite frozen yogurts or mixed with your smoothies made at home.
Essential Fatty Acids : Omega-3 and Omega-6
Fish is a great source of essential fatty acids. Fatty acids help reduce the inflammation that can trigger cell-clogging pores resulting in acne. Do eat fish such as Sardines (you get them in tins at your local supermarkets), Mackerel and of course, Salmon. If you’re vegetarian, incorporate foods like Flax Seeds(ground into a powder/paste form or buy the oil) and Walnuts too.
Food rich in Zinc
Foods that contain Zinc are said to control the hormone Androgens, found in both men and women that cause excessive release of sebum. Zinc also helps with the absorption of Vitamin A, which is a vital nutrient for overall healthy skin. Try to eat a lot of green beans, kidney beans, lima beans, spinach, poultry, egg yolks, dark chocolate, shrimps as well as oysters which are extremely rich in Zinc. Nuts too have a good Zinc content and so do Oats. Why not start the day with a bowl of oats or make oat desserts!
Food rich in Beta-Carotene
Beta-Carotene is a reddish orange pigment found in plants and fruits such as carrots, sweet potato, bell peppers etc. The more intense the colour of the food, the more beta-carotene it has. Our bodies convert Beta-Carotene into active Vitamin A or Retinol and are essential for the eyes, organs as well as the skin. It is said to improve skin colour and texture, thus, preventing wrinkles and acne induced inflammations etc.
Food rich in Chromium
Chromium is a mineral that stabilizes blood sugar levels. As extreme sugar content in the bloodstream leads to excessive sebum production, one needs to consume foods with a high Chromium content in order to regulate the blood sugar and keep acne at bay. People who have diets with no or less Chromium are found to be more prone to acne than those whose diets are rich in this mineral.
So, by eating enough lettuce(Romain lettuce has the highest chromium content than any other lettuce), onions, potatoes and whole grains you can combat acne to a large extent. For optimum benefits of Chromium, foods containing high Vitamin C content should be taken alongside as Vitamin C helps in the absorption of chromium in the body.
Food rich in Allicin
Garlic is one food that is plentiful in a naturally occurring chemical compound called Allicin, which is super for killing off harmful bacteria and viruses. It is a natural antibiotic. Allicin has a yellowish oily liquid appearance and is responsible for the strong odour that garlic gives off. Cooked garlic does not have a high Allicin content so uncooked garlic is best suggested. The antimicrobial properties of Allicin, helps to fight acne either by incorporating ample raw garlic in your diet or by applying it over the acne as it reduces redness and dries up the acne quickly. Other Allicin-rich foods are onions, leeks, chives and shallots in their purest and raw form.
Foods To Steer Away From:
As mentioned in my introduction, you don’t have to completely avoid certain foods, and now that I have cleared the myth that food alone can’t cause acne, certain foods should be taken in moderation as too much of them may lead to acne. For instance, Iodized salts and Iodine rich foods cause acne breakouts. Try Sea Salt instead, which has lower Iodine content. Avoid foods that are too rich in processed sugar as you don’t want to increase your blood sugar levels and insulin.
Milk chocolates, as scrumptious as they are, are not the best friends of acne, I’m afraid. However, if you can limit your chocolate intake, then that’s great. If you can’t, you must switch to the darker chocolate variety which is actually great for the body and skin as it contains Flavonols (flavonoids found in chocolate) which are antioxidants protecting the skin’s hydration. So, munch away on dark chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage and less sugar percentage.
I hope this rendition of acne fighting foods will help in identifying which foods to grab next time you’re at your local supermarket, especially if you have acne prone skin or get occasional breakout every now and then. I have provided a selection of food items both in the veg and non-veg segments. So, do stock up and incorporate them in your daily diet and bid those nasty zits farewell.
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