Your Diet Can Cause Acne if….
• It’s high in the wrong kind of carbs
Refined carbs (think anything made with white flour or sugar, also known as high-glycemic-index foods) spike your blood sugar, which also increases insulin and creates inflammation in your skin, says Eleni Linos, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at University of California San Francisco Medical Center. “That increases oil production, clogs your pores and makes it harder to exfoliate properly, which means more acne,” adds Whitney Bowe, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. (We’ve got more information on the link between glycemic index and acne here.) A better bet is to swap refined carbs for whole grains, which don’t lead to blood sugar spikes, and work on limiting your intake of added sugar.
• It’s chockablock full of dairy
Dairy can be a great way to build strong bones and keep your protein intake up, but certain kinds of dairy are linked to acne. Specifically, skim milk and ice cream, says Bowe. The ice cream connection could be blamed equally on the sugar content as well as the dairy, but the story gets more complicated when it comes to low-fat milks. One theory is that “milk contains certain proteins that can trigger inflammation, which can lead to acne, and skim milk has higher amounts of them because manufacturers add them so the milk doesn’t have a watery consistency,” says Bowe. Yogurt is fair game though, and if it’s got probiotics, it may even be beneficial for your complexion, as more research is linking a healthy gut to healthy skin, says Bowe.
• It includes this in your post-workout shakes
Speaking of proteins linked to acne, have you heard of whey? Whey protein isolate is a popular type of powdered protein supplement, and some small studies have shown that people often develop acne after they add it to their diets. Try vegetable-based proteins, like pea protein, or mix nut butters into your shakes instead (just check the labels for added sugars first).
And Your Diet Can Make You Look Older If…
• You still eat like you did in the early ‘90s
We’re talking about your low-fat diet, which was all the rage 20 years ago, but isn’t so fashionable today. We know now that poly and mono unsaturated fats are beneficial for your health (they can help lower your risk of heart disease and regulate your blood sugar levels), and they play a critical role in keeping your skin looking hydrated and glowy. “Our cell membranes are composed of fats,” explains Bowe. “And if they’re not functioning properly because there isn’t enough fat, we can’t trap moisture in our skin as effectively.” So add a little bit of healthy fat to each meal, like putting walnuts in your morning oatmeal, topping your lunch salad with avocado and having fatty fish for dinner.
• You continue to rationalize this habit
If this doesn’t convince you to quit it with the added sugar, nothing will: Indulging in soda and candy and other “treats” can lead to fine lines and wrinkles. When you consume sugar molecules, they attach to collagen and elastin fibers in your skin (which help it stay firm and smooth), warping the fibers enough for your body to think they’re busted and need to be broken down, explains Bowe. If they get broken down faster than they can be replaced, you start to lose your skin’s youthful tone and texture. Plus, here are 5 other great things that happen to your body when you cut out added sugar.
• You’re too low on protein
We know –we just told you to cut out an easy protein boost (whey in your shakes), but, as Bowe points out, “the amino acids in protein act as the building blocks that give skin it’s elasticity and strength,” so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough. Lean proteins like chicken and occasional red meat are smart choices, as is fish, because it’s packed with healthy fats in addition to protein. Not a big meat eater? Try some of these 37 high-protein foods that aren’t meat. (The general recommendation is to get .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but you may need more if you’re especially active.)