7 Foods to Add in Your Diet for Acne Treatment

Updated on January 6th, 2020
diet for acne

Acne is one of the skin conditions that result in a breakout and covers your skin with blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. According to skin specialists, up to fifty million people have acne. It is common in young adults and teenagers.

However, 15% of American adult women have acne which persists until the age of 30 or 40. Acne might not be a significant problem, but it affects one’s confidence. It might also affect the impression people have of you at work or school at a subliminal level.

Naturally, everyone wants to look their best and acne, though considered a small problem, often comes in the way. It can hamper your dating plans too.

Why is Acne Caused?

When children hit puberty, their bodies start producing more androgen. Androgen is typically associated with males. However, it is found in small amounts in females too.

Androgen stimulates the glands in the hair follicles of the skin that produce sebum, the substance that keeps the skin and hair hydrated and healthy. Due to excess production of sebum, blocked skin pores might interact with bacteria found in dust and cause acne. Hygiene appears to be a secondary cause.

Since the leading cause of acne in most people is the excess production of sebum due to hormonal changes,  hormonal acne diet plays a vital role. We have listed specific easy changes you can make in your diet for treating acne(1) breakout.

[Also Read: Natural Remedies for Acne]

Diet for Acne- How Effective is it?

1. Fish

Fish Benefits

Eating fish certainly has many benefits like improved brain health, protection for eyes during old age, better sleep quality, and reduced risks of heart attack and stroke. Fish contains many essential nutrients required by the body, and so it is an integral part of a balanced diet.

Fish is rich with vitamin D, iodine, protein, and most importantly, omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, and since acne is mainly due to inflammation of the skin cells, it is advisable to have food that is rich in it. Fish is one of the primary and best sources of this nutrient. Dermatologists and dieticians recommend having fish as a part of your diet to treat acne.

Fatty fish such as salmon and sardine have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is not suitable for you to have fish every day. Two to three portions of fish per week is perfect. One part of the fish is about 140 grams or 4.9 pounds. So, the recommended weekly intake of fish is 420 g or 14.5 oz.

Fish also have a low glycemic index (GI) and are very less likely to cause acne. You should avoid fish which have too much of vitamin B12 in them because some research suggests that vitamin B12 found in meat could cause acne.

2. Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

When oxidation takes place in your cells, the compounds present in them become free radicals which interact with other cells and cause damage. It leads to inflammation, which causes acne. Antioxidants prevent oxidation from taking place, thereby reducing and preempting inflammation.

They also reduce oxidative stress. Inflammation is also caused by the lack of vitamin A and vitamin E, which have antioxidant properties and stop inflammation. People who are more prone to acne tend to be slightly deficient in vitamin A and vitamin E.

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables tend to have higher levels of antioxidants. Typically fruits and vegetables that are bright red or blue. Blueberries and red grapes have not only antioxidants in plenty, but also fiber and insulin. Pepper, other berries and spinach are also rich in antioxidants.

Vitamin E, which is widely known among dermatologists and skincare product companies to be perfect for the skin, can be obtained by taking watercress and avocado oil. Vitamin A, which is also good for the eyes, is found in orange foods. Pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potato which are examples of orange foods. Their color is due to the presence of high amounts of beta-carotene.

[Also Read: Vitamins for Acne]

3. Nuts

Image: ShutterStock

Doctors recommend nuts as they are known to be beneficial for heart disease, cholesterol, weight loss, type two diabetes, and metabolic syndromes. They contain antioxidants(2) and reduce inflammation.

Nuts are not only delicious and available widely in variety but also rich in many nutrients like fiber, magnesium, calcium, selenium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and protein. Not to mention, they also have vitamin E, which, as discussed above, is excellent for the skin in many ways. The omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts also play an essential role.

Almonds, Brazil nuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Macadamia nuts, Pecans, Pine nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts are the most readily available nuts with high nutritional value and can be a part of your diet for treating acne. You should not consume more than 30 g of nuts per day.

A small handful of nuts every day is very beneficial to your health in the ways explained above. You can consume 7 to 9 walnuts every day. Besides the nine nuts mentioned above, chia seeds and flax seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids. However, flax seeds need to be crushed and added to your meals if they are to produce the desired effects by the release of the nutrients.

[Also Read: Herbs to Treat Acne]

4. Yogurt

Doctors advise that you should avoid dairy products if you have the skin problem of acne. It is because milk has certain hormones that act as precursors to testosterone. Testosterone is called a male hormone, but it is also present in females though in small amounts. Testosterone is also an androgen, and as mentioned at the beginning of the article, excess androgen causes acne.

Yogurt is an exception as it has probiotic constituents or in other words, good bacteria. They are referred to as such because they are beneficial to the gut and prevent the series of events in the stomach that might lead to inflammation.

Yogurt naturally contains potassium and calcium. Additionally, there are products to which vitamin D has been added. It has been reported that 90% of Americans, both adults, and children, consume less than a cup of yogurt in a week. The recommended daily intake of yogurt is one serving per day. Low-fat and non-fat yogurts are better for a balanced diet for acne.

Bacteria that doctors refer to as good are found in live active cultures in sauerkraut and miso. Supplements can also contain bacteria that can create a favorable environment in your gut and thereby, your body.

[Also Read: Benefits of yogurt]

5. Zinc

Like vitamin E, zinc is also necessary for healthy skin. Heavy acne is associated with the deficiency of the mineral zinc. Zinc is used by many enzymes (structured proteins that act as catalysts to form required nutrients in the body) to break down molecules that keep the skin healthy.

Zinc is very effective against Cutibacterium acnes, also known as P. acnes, which is notorious for causing acne and the development of blemishes. It can be used to treat microinflammation, which is what causes acne.

Green vegetables are rich in not only Zinc but also antioxidants. Broccoli and Kale are examples of such herbs. Zinc is also rich in nuts like almonds and cashews. It is rich in many other foods. Supplements of Zinc are also available although you don’t need much of Zinc to reap its benefits. 8 mg of Zinc is ideal for daily intake for females and 11 mg for males.

[Also Read: Effective Supplements That Work For Acne ]

6. Probiotics

You might have heard about microorganisms that do good for your health. We have talked about it in this article before. Such organisms are referred to as good and friendly bacteria. To be sure, Probiotics can be both bacteria and yeast.

They prevent inflammation by fighting against the harmful microorganisms present in your body and killing them. Probiotics are essential because they unclog the pores on the skin. The clogging of the hair follicles on the surface is caused by inflammation and toxins.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus, or L. Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Bifidobacterium are the best strains of Probiotics for treating acne. They can be administered as two separate beings, but Probiotics can be used as topicals, although there is not much evidence to show how effective they are.

However, they can be used as supplements containing live cultures too. Foods in which Probiotics naturally exist are yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, pickled cucumber, tempeh, kefir, a fermented tea, and miso. Probiotics are measured with the unit CFU, which stands for colony forming units. 1 to 10 billion CFU is recommended for daily intake of Probiotics.

[ Read: Supplements for Hormonal Acne ]

7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish Oil or Omega-3 Fatty Acids for pain

Omega-3 fatty acids are a must to have as a part of your anti-acne diet. It is the one type of fat that you should never cut back on. Inflammation is the leading cause of not only acne but also chronic illnesses in the west. It is a natural reaction to damage and infection.

However, when it persists, it invites various diseases. Omega 3 fatty acids are suitable for your brain, heart, eyes, liver, bones, joints, autoimmune system and skin because it reduces the production of molecules such as cytokine which are responsible for inflammation.

[Also read: Essential Oils for Acne]

Omega 3 fatty acids are of three types – ALA, DHA, and EPA. ALA is converted into energy. It is found in flaxseed oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, canola oil, walnuts, soybeans, and hemp seeds.

DHA and EPA are found in fatty and oily fish, which is why vegetarians and vegans tend to be deficient in these nutrients. Although part of ALA is converted to DHA and EPA, the process of conversion is not efficient. Therefore, microalgae supplements are recommended for vegetarians and vegans.

It is also ideal to consume at least 200 mg to 500 mg of all the three types of omega-3 fatty acids combined every day.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), due to the unhealthy diet of teenagers and young adults these days, they are more likely to have acne which can be challenging to treat externally, by the use of topicals. Acne can also cause low self-esteem and depression in youngsters.

Therefore, they should make significant changes to their diets as outlined in the article above. Maintaining a food diary and monitoring outbreaks can help you find out which food worsens your acne.

Typically, it is food with a high glycemic index (GI) like chocolate and dairy. Following a well-balanced acne free diet without these foods can drastically improve your skin health.

[ Read:  Foods That Cause Acne ]


1. How Does Diet Affect the Skin?

Acne is caused when skin pores clogged by dead skin cells, bacteria, or both which the body responds to with inflammation, leading to the formation of pimples. Studies have shown that

insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone released during and after puberty, increases the production of sebum, excess of which causes inflammation. Since our diet is how we get these hormones, it plays a significant role in creating or preventing acne.

2. What Foods Should Be Avoided for Acne?

Foods that increase the production of androgen and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), as well as foods with a high glycemic index (GI),  should be avoided. People who have fried and greasy food are more likely to have acne. Dairy products, chocolate, and donuts also cause severe acne.

3. Which Are the Most Effective Foods for Acne?

Foods that prevent inflammation and are rich in antioxidants are the most effective if included in your anti-acne diet. Salmon, mackerel, fruits, vegetables, soybeans, cashew, almonds, pumpkin, flax seeds, mustard seeds, spinach, Kale, yogurt, wild rice, and pastured eggs are examples of food that you should include in an acne diet plan.

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