Our skin is something we all want to look great, because who likes going out with flaky skin or with a major breakout? Skin issues can also be physically painful, such as rashes and even some forms of acne. Wrinkles are another hot topic when it comes to skincare and a desire for a youthful, supple glow has helped the beauty industry make more money than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. But what if instead of all these fancy products and crazy tactics to change our skin, we just actually ate foods that would do the same thing, and got rid of the foods that hurt our skin?

Certain foods cause inflammation in the body, slow down the digestive tract and generally clog up the detoxification pathways of the body, leading to toxic build-up. This is usually easy to spot by fatigue, joint pain, digestive problems and sluggishness, but it also shows up through the skin because the body can’t get rid of these toxins as quickly as it would like to. Since the skin is the largest organ, the body will attempt to eliminate built-up wastes through the skin as a last resort to cleanse itself. This shows up in the form of acne or other pesky skin woes such as rashes and even some forms of skin fungal infections. Of course hormones can also cause acne, which can also be triggered by eating certain foods, leading to a whole other battle that seems neverending. This makes diet and nutritional choices for your skin more important than ever.

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Here are three main foods to avoid that are known to not just cause acne, but also digestive and hormonal disturbances which have a negative impact on your skin too.

Refined Grains

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Refined grains and any highly processed grain product (such as wheat) should be avoided as much as possible. Celiac disease (the autoimmune condition linked to a gluten allergy) affects one in every 133 Americans, which is even more than Crohn’s disease, another serious and very common digestive disorder, and even epilepsy and lupus. Because of the way wheat has been so heavily processed in the food industry, it’s become an allergenic source of protein our body doesn’t recognize or tolerate. What does this have to do with acne? The inflammation response and intolerance in the body from refined grains, all cause breakouts and other bodily responses that trigger inflammation, such as blood glucose spikes. Processed foods high in carbohydrates lead to a quick spike in glucose and insulin levels, and at the same time cause cortisol (the stress hormone) to rise, which also leads to inflammation and breakouts.

Be sure when shopping for your foods that you stick to whole foods as much as possible. Refined wheat and other refined grains lurk in everything from condiments to even highly processed vegan protein optionss like TVP (textured vegetable protein) and veggie burgers, along with some other foods like beverages, protein bars and most any processed food that isn’t labeled gluten-free.

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Instead of refined grains, choose gluten-free, whole rolled oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet, chia, teff, flax, and whole grain rices (not white). These all offer more fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and other dense sources of nutrition than any variety of refined grains do. Your body will also digest pure whole grain options easier and you’ll likely notice your skin looks better in a short amount of time.

Keep in mind, if you tolerate rye, wheat, and barley (sources of gluten) fine, then be sure you choose either sprouted grains which are rich in protein and alive enzymes since they’re flour-free and less-processed, or eat the whole grains themselves versus flours, cereals and shelf stable breads.

 

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Sugar

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Sugar in most any form is just not good for your skin and anyone who’s overcome acne will tell you that cutting it out makes a huge difference FAST. Sugar causes a rise in glucose which spikes insulin and can quickly lead to breakouts, but it can also lead to cortisol and adrenal problems causing inflammation and fatigue. Refined sugar and even added sugars like ‘natural’ syrups and granulated sweeteners can all cause breakouts due to the way they offset insulin levels in the body. They’re hard to spot and found in almost everything these days, so the best way to avoid them is to stick to a whole foods diet. Remember that all added sources of sugar are also inflammatory and don’t contain all the vitamins and minerals found in whole foods. Did you know sugar also causes wrinkles? Sugar breaks down collagen in the skin, which can increase the look of fine lines and lead to aging quicker. Whole, plant-based foods on the other hand, support collagen function and are best for overall aging.

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If you need to reduce the sugar in your diet, we suggest sticking to low-glycemic fruits like berries, green apples, citrus, and trying organic, liquid stevia as a last resort for sweeteners. Pack your diet out with naturally sweet foods which will curb your sweet tooth overtime and help also help your skin look better quickly. See our Meatless Monday Meal Ideas to Balance your Blood Sugar for a whole day’s worth of low-glycemic eats.

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If you crave sweets heavily and have a hard time without them, try adding more healthy fats and alkaline proteins to your diet which will satiate your appetite and also offset cravings and the inflammatory response in your body. Good choices are raw nuts, seeds, coconut, and avocados, along with leafy greens like kale, spinach, spirulina, arugula and all green vegetables. Many times if you’re not eating enough healthy fats, alkaline proteins, and leafy green vegetables, the body will actually crave sugar because it’s suffering from an imbalance. Keep this in mind and make adjustments to fight your cravings while also giving your body the nourishment it really desires. 

 

Dairy

Dairy products

Dairy is another big no-no for your skin, which you probably already know. It’s not just because it’s animal-based either. Dairy is highly inflammatory, is hard for the body to break down and digest, and is very clogging to the body which causes acne as a result. The hormones in dairy also change your own natural levels of estrogen and testosterone, along with spiking insulin and possibly cortisol, which also lead to acne. Dairy’s proteins and sugar content are also aging, while plant-based options for calcium like almonds, chia and collards all come with nutrients that promote clear, healthy and supple skin.

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Instead of dairy, try making some delicious, rich coconut or cashew milk ice cream, yogurt, or make some non-dairy milk. Dairy is one of the easiest foods to replace on a plant-based diet, so why wait another day to start? See our Ditch Dairy section for more dairy info and how to make the switch ASAP.

If you avoid these three foods in all forms, you’ll be well on your way to healthier skin and a healthier body in no time. Your complexion is usually a mirror of how healthy your body is inside. So remember that the next time you have skin problems and also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Your body needs to stay hydrated and water flushes out daily toxins the way the body intended. For natural topical applications to help with acne while you’re making healthy changes to your diet, also see 5 Natural and Easy Remedies for Clearing Up Acne. 

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