Written by Neha Chandna - Dietician, Nutrition Educator, Exercise Counselor with an M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Service Management from SVT. She has worked with corporates such as HDFC and Standard Chartered as well as BPOs and MNCs on the Right ways of eating and living!
Is acne bringing down your self-esteem? Don't worry! You are not the only one. Research has shown that during adolescence, close to 90-100% of the population has at least an occasional whitehead, blackhead, or pimple, regardless of race or ethnicity. In most cases, acne begins between the ages of 10 and 13 and usually lasts for 5 to 10 years.
Acne is mostly due to the way our skin reacts to hormonal changes. The skin contains sebaceous glands that naturally release sebum, an oily substance that helps protect it. During puberty, raised levels of the hormone testosterone can cause too much sebum to be produced. This happens in both boys and girls. The sebum can block hair follicles. When dead skin cells mix with the blockage, it can lead to the formation of spots. Bacteria in the skin multiply, causing pain and swelling beneath the blockages.
We often blame chocolates, oily foods, and sweets for aggravated acne. But this is just a myth. Food itself has no effect on acne. The frequency of your flare-ups depends on the hormonal changes, genetics, stress levels, and skin type. Foods like sodas, burgers, pizzas, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, samosas, vada pav, etc., which are high in sugar and white flour, cause a spike in your insulin levels leading to excess cortisol production, which is responsible for acne development. Any kind of psychological or physical stress also raises the blood cortisol levels. So keeping the cortisol levels under control is a crucial factor. You can keep your cortisol levels low by following a good healthy diet, yoga, exercise, listening to your favorite music, getting enough sleep, and having a positive attitude in life.
Let's focus on top 10 foods that can actually help you prevent acne or fight the existing ones:
- Fish or Flaxseeds: These contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which have the ability to reduce inflammation in our body that can trigger cells to clog pores and potentially cause acne. They are wonder foods for the skin and body. Have 2-3 servings of salmon, sardine, or mackerel per week, or 1-2 tablespoon of flaxseeds in your soup, smoothies, shakes per day to up your omega-3 intake.
- Avocado: This is an excellent source of Vitamin E, which protects the skin from radical damage caused by poor diet and environmental toxins. It boosts your immunity to fight against those nasty bacteria causing red bumps on your beautiful face. It keeps your skin supple and free of blemishes. Other rich sources of vitamin E are almonds, walnuts, peanuts, olive oil, etc.
- Alfalfa Sprouts: Though they may look like grass, they are power packed with vitamins like A, C, K, etc. and minerals like zinc, selenium, copper, which help to detoxify the liver, flush out toxins from the body, and give you a clear glowing skin. The super nutrition content, combined with the high amounts of chlorophyll, make these an extraordinary healer. You can steam them and add them to your soup, salads, sandwiches, or juices.
- Kiwi: It has 3 times more Vitamin C than an orange. Vitamin C may not directly cure acne, but contributes to a strong and healthy immune system which helps you to eradicate any sort of infection. It also is necessary for formation of healthy cell walls, collagen and elastin keeping the cell skin cell structure intact and promoting healing of the affected cells and scars. You can also opt for other vitamin c rich foods like oranges, lemons, bell peppers, amla, guava, etc. since your body does not store this water soluble vitamin, you need to get enough of it from your daily diet.
- Carrots: These are filled with betacarotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is the best antioxidant for the skin. It improves skin texture and maintains healthy skin cells. You can also get
- Vitamin A from tomatoes, sweet potato, red and yellow bell peppers, cantaloupes, etc.
- Sunflower Seeds: These are rich in selenium, which in combination with Vitamin E works wonders to protect the skin from bacterial damage. They reduce inflammatory damage to the skin, preserve skin elasticity, and control acne development. Other foods rich in selenium are Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, mushrooms, etc.
- Pumpkin Seeds: These are good sources of zinc. Studies have shown that zinc deficiency can weaken the immune system making one prone to any kind of infection. Hence zinc in your diet can help you prevent flare ups and protect skin from any bacterial invasion. Other foods rich in zinc are sesame seeds, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, chickpeas, wheat germ etc.
- Yoghurt: It contains live bacteria that prevent the growth of bad bacteria in the gut and allow the good fellows to grow. These good bacteria do not allow the bad ones to enter your system, thereby improving your immunity and defense against skin infections. Especially if you are on antibiotic treatment, 1 cup yogurt a day can be of great help.
- Green Tea: It contains flavonols and polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that help to control skin infections, soothe inflammation, and boost the immune system, thus detoxifying the body.
- Water: The benefits of water are umpteen, hence it makes sense to drink plenty of water. Water is a universal solvent. It dissolves the toxins, throws them out of the body, carries the nutrients and antioxidants to the skin cells, and promotes faster healing, reducing acne flare ups. Drink more on days your activity level is high or the temperature outside is much higher than usual.
We all understand the pain and stress one goes through when one sees new zits and pimples popping up. Integrate these 10 foods in your diet to stay vibrant and skin healthy. Heal yourself with the right foods.