Four Groups of Foods that Cause Acne: The Truth Is Not What You Think
Chances are you have heard the old advice that the chief foods that cause acne are chocolate and nuts. There really are foods that cause acne, but chocolate and nuts are not among them. Here are three food groups that cause skin to break out in new acne flares.
1. Seafood, such as shrimp, oysters, lobster, and crab, and sea vegetables, such as nori, dulse, and kelp, are all rich in iodine, an essential nutrition which in excess can cause skin to break out or interfere with acne treatment. Spinach is also high in iodine.
2. Trans-fats have only recently been recognized as a source of the inflammation that causes acne. Many food manufacturers and fast food chains are removing trans- fats from their products, but these sources of acne irritants are still abundant in:
• Chocolate-chip cookies made with cottonseed and/or soybean oil, the problem ingredient being the cottonseed oil or soybean oil, not the chocolate.
• Chocolate cookies with crème fillings, the problem being the filling.
• Commercial taco shells.
• Glazed doughnuts, which are made with a different kind of shortening so the cake will not get soft under the glaze.
• Margarine, except for stanol (cholesterol-lowering) margarines.
• Milk chocolate coated cookie bars with caramel.
• Popcorn made with soybean oil.
• Potato chips fried in a mixture of oils (but not potato chips fried in just one kind of oil).
• Shortening, especially if it is made with soybean oil (which has 28 times the trans- fatty acid content of lard).
• Snack crackers made with cottonseed oil, refined coconut oil, or soybean oil.
These foods are actually worse for your skin than lard, butter, hot dogs, and tortilla chips—although you should not overindulge in these foods, either.
3. Omega-6 fatty acids are used by the body to make the hormones that cause inflammation, redness, and irritation. Some pro-inflammatory hormones, of course, are necessary to fight infections and to heal tissues after injury, but too many pro-inflammatory hormones make acne worse. Foods that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids include:
• Bologna, no matter what kind of meat is used to make it, even if it is low-fat.
• Most fast food sandwiches, but especially cheeseburgers.
• Pie crust.
• Pork sausage patties.
And if you happen to live in the Arctic North, you should also avoid dried seal meat and fresh whale blubber, which are nature’s richest sources of n-6 essential fatty acids.
4. Foods that the body rapidly converts to sugar also aggravate acne, by accelerating the conversion of n-6 fatty acids into pro-inflammatory hormones. A few of the most common high glycemic-index foods are:
• Cereals (except steel-cut oatmeal or quinoa).
• Corn bread, corn muffins.
• French fries.
• Fruit juice—although fresh fruit is OK.
• Ice cream, gelato, ice milk.
• Jams, jelly, and preserves.
• Muffins of all kinds.
• Noodles except those made with spinach or zucchini (use zucchini in place of pasta in lasagna).
• Pancakes and pancake syrup.
• Pita bread
• Pizza (thin crust is a better choice).
• Pasta (unless made with semolina).
• Potatoes, especially instant.
• Pudding and pudding pops
• Rice (white but not brown).
• Soft drinks.
• Taco shells.
• Tortillas, although corn tortillas (not chips!) are slightly healthier than flour tortillas.
• Waffles and waffle syrup.
It is not necessary completely to avoid these foods, but limit yourself to one or two servings in any four-hour period.
And if what chocolate and nuts cause your skin to break out?
In all probability, the skin flares occurring after eating these foods is due to the reactivation of a viral infection, rather than acne. Chocolate, nuts, and also pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, roast beef, peanut butter, tofu, and whitefish are all potent sources of the amino acid arginine.
Viruses that cause skin inflammation, especially the viruses that cause cold sores, are more active when there is a sudden increase of arginine in the diet. Eating foods that are high in lysine, such turkey, lamb, Parmesan cheese, and spirulina, reverses the effect.