Should we fight acne with the same mentality the government applies when educating Americans to eat a healthy diet — with a food pyramid? (Image courtesy of Clear Clinic)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away – and it turns out, kale and carrots can help keep the dermatologist away, too.
These veggies stabilize key hormones that figure into breakouts, says dermatologist Eric Schweiger, who runs Clear Clinic, an acne-focused dermatology practice in New York City. “A high glycemic load can raise blood glucose and insulin levels in the body. When these levels spike, hormone levels also rise, and can trigger acne,” he explains. A low-glycemic diet will steady blood sugar levels and not cause the problematic influx of hormones, adds Schweiger.
Just like the USDA educates Americans to eat healthy with its My Plate program, Schweiger is proposing that we take a similar approach to fighting breakouts — with an easy-to-read pyramid that breaks down the foods proven to help alleviate breakouts.
Supporting evidence comes by way of a study published this past year in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology that revealed processed (or “simple”) carbohydrates appears to be the leading dietary offender in patients suffering from breakouts. “Based on the data, dermatologists should encourage their acne patients to minimize intake of high glycemic index foods,” summarizes the report, which looked at various studies published from 2009-2013.
When visualized in a pyramid, the small top portion of high glycemic foods that should be limited or cut out includes many of the usual tasty health problem suspects – think muffins, potatoes, white rice and cheeseburgers. More surprisingly sneaky glycemic high loaders include rice cakes, instant oatmeal and gluten-free rice pasta. Experts say the high amount of processing in these latter foods are to blame.
But don’t feel discouraged just yet — there are plenty of foods to look forward to in the larger low glycemic base. And we’re not yanking your chain. The good-for-you list includes dark chocolate (look for blends with at least 70% cacao), red wine, filet mignon, sweet potatoes, fish, eggs, most vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. Ezekiel bread, which is known as a sprouted grain product, along with rolled oats and quinoa, are all lower glycemic foods.
Adding antioxidants by way of berries, fiber through leafy greens, and hydration with plenty of water round out Schweiger’s breakout-banishing diet. “While I don’t recommend diet changes alone to treat acne, I’ve had many patients who have had acne improve after combination therapy,” says Schweiger. This may mean diet modification along with targeted skincare or prescription remedies, depending on the severity of acne.
In addition to clearer skin, a low glycemic diet has been said to have other health benefits, including weight loss and prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.