Want Healthy Skin? Limit These 5 Types of Foods

Culprits that wreak havoc on your body’s largest organ
A woman with glowing skin touching her cheeks and smiling

Glowing, radiant, clear — those are the magic words we want our skin to embody. But what do you do when the words that come to mind are tired, stiff, irritated or dry?

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There are plenty of foods — rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, omega-3 and zinc — that will help prevent inflammation, reduce acne breakouts and leave your skin looking its best, says Jorden Edinger, RDN, LD.

“Unfortunately, there are also culprits in our daily diets that do the opposite,” she says. “Many trigger acne, a skin disease that results from clogging of the oil glands at the base of hair follicles. Others affect collagen formation, a process that is critical to keeping your skin healthy and elastic.”

If you deal with skin irritations, breakouts or other concerns, your diet may be at fault. Edinger recommends taking a look at the following in your diet:

1. Sugar

Add one more strike against eating too much sugar. Studies have found that diets high in glucose or fructose affect what’s called ‘skin collagen crosslinking.’ That sounds complicated, but it breaks down like this: Collagen is responsible for your skin’s strength and elasticity. 

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“Too much sugar can disrupt the balance in your body’s proteins, including collagen,” she says. “When that happens, your skin’s softness and elasticity go downhill — leading to stiff, rigid skin and, ultimately, wrinkles.”

Decrease the amount of sugar you eat by becoming an expert at reading labels. And, yes, that means ditching your favorite soda.

2. Foods with a high glycemic index

Food with a high glycemix index includes white bread, white pasta and potatoes, as well as sugary drinks and snacks. Preliminary research suggests foods with a high glycemic index cause acne breakouts for many people — and keep in mind acne isn’t just a problem for adolescents. When you eat a diet rich in these foods, your body produces higher levels of insulin. Insulin spikes can set off a chain reaction associated with developing acne. On top of that, an insulin spike inevitably leads to an insulin crash — leaving your skin and the rest of you looking and feeling drained.

3. Salt

Salt and other forms of sodium may add flavor to your food — but too much sodium can sap the life out of your skin. This occurs in a couple of different ways. For one, too much sodium dehydrates you, which means it sucks vital moisture from your skin. Secondly, too much sodium also can cause you to retain water, resulting in bags under your eyes and other visible signs.

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4. Dairy

The typical Western diet includes many dairy sources that contain hormones, including certain types of steroids and growth hormones. Unfortunately, these stimulate acne, too. The same has been found for protein powder shakes that contain casein and whey, as well; if you’re using these shakes as substitutes for food, be wary. If acne is a concern for you, organic dairy products may offer an alternative.

5. Saturated Fats

Red meat, cheese, butter and hydrogenated oils — all are high in saturated fats. Plus, foods that are high in saturated fat are associated with high concentrations of insulin growth factor. 

“Insulin growth factor stimulates the production of the sex hormones that increase acne production,” says Edinger. “On the flipside, a colorful plant-based diet rich in antioxidants, high-fiber food choices, and omega-3 healthy fats helps to reduce blood concentrations of insulin-like growth factor.”

Work with your dietitian and dermatologist to figure out the best diet to get you on your way toward the healthiest skin possible. 

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