6 Foods to Kick off Your Dinner Plate for Clearer, Healthier Skin

There’s no doubt about the fact that our diet impacts our skin.

After all, the skin is the body’s largest organ, and the body is one complex, interconnected system. How could it not!?

The foods we eat can impact the skin in a number of ways:

  • Calm inflammation OR inflame the skin, accelerating aging and instigating acne and other inflammatory skin conditions
  • Help maintain hormonal balance OR trigger those specific hormones to blame for acne
  • Support our liver and its many duties OR tax the liver and impair its ability to detox impurities as well as excess and used hormones
  • Prevent oxidative stress and neutralize free radicals OR create oxidative stress and free radical damage

But you can greatly improve your skin health — and overall health! — by removing or reducing* a few, particularly damaging foods.

*There’s wiggle room in every healthy diet! And feeling like you can’t ever have these foods EVER can be stressful — and that stress is even more unhealthy (and bad for your skin!) than having a small amount of these foods here or there.


6 Foods to Kick off Your Dinner Plate for Clearer, Healthier Skin

SUGAR

  • Damages collagen and accelerates aging
  • Promotes hormonal acne
  • Instigates inflammatory skin conditions
  • Depletes key skin-supporting antioxidants
  • Suppresses immune function and so slows skin healing

Americans have some maaaaaaajor sweet teeth: the average American consumes over 130 pounds of sugar per year! This is 22 teaspoons of sugar each day for the average American adult, and 32 teaspoons of sugar each day for the average American child.

To put it simply, this is ABSURD and without a doubt at the root of our nation’s failing health. It also doesn’t bode well for our skin.

High levels of insulin — which is released in we experience after eating a sugary food or carbohydrate-rich meal — are extremely inflammatory and suppress the immune system.

Elevated insulin is also a major trigger for adult hormonal acne since it causes a spike in androgen levels, which in turn increases oil production and impairs the way in which the skin sheds — it’s the perfect storm for a zit (or two or three or twenty!).

High blood sugar levels also accelerate a natural process called glycation, which damages collagen and elastin, structural proteins that keep the skin firm and youthful.

So can you never EVER have sugar? No. It’s about maintaining balanced blood sugar levels as opposed to cutting out each and every source of sugar (including natural sugars) in your diet. Erratic blood sugar levels are also to blame for crazy cravings, that classic 2 pm energy slump, and “hanger.”


“VEGETABLE” OILS

Including canola, soy, corn, and sunflower seed oils

  • Instigates inflammatory skin conditions including acne
  • “Inflamm-ages” the skin

Not only are these oils are some of the most unnatural, processed foods on the market, but they’re also loaded with polyunsaturated omega-6 essential fatty acids, which kick-start the inflammatory process.

And while omega-3 essential fatty acids signal the chemical messengers that turn off the inflammatory process, the average person consumes 10 to 15 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. Since we ought to be consuming the two in about equal quantities, our bodies are perfectly able to inflame without being able to properly anti-inflame. It’s the perfect recipe for chronic inflammation.


BURNT AND CHARRED FOODS

  • Instigates inflammatory skin conditions including acne
  • “Inflamm-ages” the skin

AGEs aren’t just a result of elevated blood sugar levels — they’re also found in burnt and charred foods. These dietary AGEs are likewise extremely pro-inflammatory.


WHEAT AND GLUTEN-CONTAINING GRAINS

Including barley, rye, and triticale

  • instigates inflammatory skin conditions including acne
  • “inflamm-ages” the skin

I know, I know! First I tell you sugar is a no-no for skin, and now I have to go and add gluten to the list. But hear me out…

A specific protein found in gluten gluten is a composite of the proteins glutenin and gliadin, the latter of has been shown to cause intestinal permeability or “leaky gut.” By allowing toxins and undigested food particles to pass through the intestinal lining, leaky gut prompts an immune response and is a significant cause of chronic inflammation. Amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATIs) found in wheat have also been shown to provoke an inflammatory immune response in the GI tract.

The gut and the skin are actually so closely related that their connection is referred to as “the gut-skin axis.” A number of studies have found that skin disorders are more common in those with digestive issues and vice versa. I’ve also seen this time and again with my nutritional therapy clients.

So can you never ever have gluten? No! Unless you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, a little here and there isn’t going to be a huge deal. That being said, if you do experience quite a lot of digestive distress, I do suggest removing it from the diet for at least a period of time while you work to heal the gut lining.


REFINDED GRAINS

  • Damage collagen and accelerates aging
  • Promote hormonal acne
  • Instigate inflammatory skin conditions including acne

These high-glycemic, simple carbohydrates — like the corn and wheat you see in so many breakfast cereals, crackers, pretzels, etc. — might as well be table sugar to your body since they’re so quickly converted to glucose once digested. In fact, a single serving of “healthy whole grain” breakfast cereal can have a glycemic index higher than pure table sugar!

As a result, these refined grains similarly cause a dramatic, pro-inflammatory insulin spike. For this reason, they likewise promote the formation of collagen-damaging AGEs, promote hormonal acne by elevating testosterone levels, and inflame the skin from the inside out.

The fiber in unrefined grains, on the other hand, help to slow glucose absorption into the bloodstream and so are a better option.


CONVENTIONAL DAIRY

  • Promotes hormonal acne
  • “Inflamm-ages” the skin

Most conventional dairy products these days are produced using milk from dairy cows raised in the most inhumane of conditions, in which they’re administered an absolute ton of antibiotics and artificial hormones to increase production. For this reason, I recommend that everyone — regardless of your health goals — either make the switch to organic dairy products or cut it entirely.

That being said, dairy simply doesn’t sit well with many people — it’s estimated that 75% of the adult population can’t properly digest dairy (source). Since improper digestion and food intolerances are a major source of chronic inflammation, for a large majority of the population, dairy wreaks havoc on the body from the digestive system to the skin and is best to be removed.

There’s also a significant connection between hormonal acne and dairy, since dairy raises insulin and testosterone levels. For this reason, women with hormonal adult acne usually see an improvement after removing dairy from their diets.

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