Asian woman enjoying french fries

6 Reminders About Foods That Cause Acne

Laura Doe

Isn’t it nice eating whatever you want? Have you ever wondered why eating feels so good? It turns out that dopamine, a molecule that gives us the feeling of pleasure, is naturally increased by certain foods. Many comfort foods like grilled cheese, dark chocolate, nut butters, roasted chicken and fried fish have building blocks like tyrosine that allow our body to create more dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel satisfied, safe and loved. But are you sure you're not eating foods that cause acne?

A growing body of research shows an association between diet and acne. According to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and dairy which are common in the American diet showed an association with acne breakouts. It turns out that certain types of food can greatly affect our skin. At the end of the article you’ll find our favorite comfort foods that won’t increase acne. 

Young female choosing dairy products in supermarket

Scientific studies show that following a low-glycemic diet can lessen acne breakouts, in addition to a variety of other health benefits like lowering the risk of developing diabetes. Research has repeatedly shown that an increase in our blood-sugar levels (typically from eating processed carbohydrates) causes inflammation in the body and the overproduction of sebum which both can eventually lead to acne. Drinking dairy milk may also increase the likelihood of developing acne. And proteins found in meat such as beef and chicken contain an amino acid called leucine which activates the skin’s oil glands. 

As advised by several acne specialists, below are some tips about how to avoid foods that cause acne.

1. A low-glycemic diet may reduce pimples. Eliminating spikes in the blood sugar, as mentioned above, will reduce bodily inflammation and sebum production - both problematic for the skin.

2. Cow’s milk may cause acne, but you can consider yogurt, cheese and other probiotics in your diet safely.

Greasy foods may actually not be bad for the skin. Fat and oil in the diet doesn’t simply find its way to the pores of our faces.

3. Some people are sensitive to the iodine in food and develop acne after consuming sports drinks that contain a seaweed extract known as kelp.

4. Meats containing leucine can stimulate the skin’s oil glands and increase breakouts.

5. Greasy foods may actually not be bad for the skin. Fat and oil in the diet doesn’t simply find its way to the pores of our faces. In fact, many oils such as olive oil, avocado oil and rapeseed oil are great for us. Fish and omega-3 supplements are full of healthy fats. Many greasy foods are also high-glycemic - those might be the real problem.

6. Chocolate, unfortunately, can be problematic for some. If you eat chocolate regularly and suffer from bad acne, try an elimination diet where you skip chocolate for a few months and see if your skin improves.

So what are our favorite comfort foods that also increase dopamine? Well, maybe not everyone would consider them comfort foods. Salmon and some whitefish such as mackerel will do the trick. Bananas are a great fruit for increasing dopamine if you’re on a raw diet. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts, too. And if you’re shooting for high-protein intake, turkey is your new best friend. 

Even if the list of potentially problematic foods is long, it’s still up to you to find out how your body will respond to changes in your diet. We’re all different and there’s no perfect answer that can be applied to everyone. But it’s worth it to experiment and understand your body more - some dietary changes might mean less trips to the dermatologist and less prescription medications. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.”  

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