If you’re into health food like me, chances are you like to eat foods that can enhance the skin, but what you may not know is that many health foods that are good for you are actually foods that cause acne as well. I know, I know; can we ever truly eat the right thing without someone finding something wrong with it? I completely understand how dreadfully exhausting it can be to try to eat the right thing. During my journey to healthy eating, I also learned how foods can affect my skin, and how even healthy foods that cause acne could be preventing me from looking and feeling my best. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat these foods ever again. In fact, the opposite is true; you should eat them, however they should be part of a well balanced diet, and not eaten in excess. The following foods that cause acne are rich in certain minerals and nutrients that, eaten too frequently, can cause flare-ups in the skin. Read on to find out what foods may be giving you those pimples that just won’t seem to go away no matter what.
Salsa is one of my absolute favorite foods, but also one of the top foods that cause acne. Salsa contains so many healthy ingredients, and is virtually a calorie-free condiment in my book, with only 20 calories per serving. It is a good source of fiber due to the abundance of veggies it contains and it tastes incredible! Yet, salsa is also acidic, since it contains tomatoes and vinegar, two ingredients that tend to break skin out if eaten regularly, or in large quantities. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods and I do love to eat them, however if I eat them several days in a row, or eat salsa several days in a row, I will break out like a teenager going through puberty. Enjoy salsa once or twice a week, but if you’re prone to breakouts or suffering from acne now, then be sure to watch your intake and see if it improves. You can also sub in hummus as another low calorie dip and spread, which contains nutrients that actually fight acne, such as healthy B vitamins and selenium found in chickpeas.
2. Greek Yogurt
Who doesn’t love Greek yogurt, right? I know I can’t live without the stuff in my fridge. Greek yogurt is full of protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12, yet it is also a source of dairy. Dairy, no matter how healthy, can cause breakouts in certain individuals, and it all relates to hormones in the body. If you tend to be low in estrogen, then eating dairy may not break you out. However, if your body has enough estrogen, or too much, then dairy may pose a problem for you since all dairy foods contain estrogen on their own, even without added hormones in certain varieties. To prevent taking in too many hormones from dairy, I always buy organic, or no hormone added varieties such as Fage and Chobani. I find when I stick to these varieties I don’t break out, but if I consume other sources that contain added hormones, I will break out. Greek yogurt is a perfectly healthy food, but if you suffer acne, you may want to consider eating less of it or consuming nondairy sources to see if the acne dissipates.
Kelp, along with all sea veggies, is a rich source of iodine. Iodine is important for healthy thyroid function, and seaweeds can actually be some of the best foods to eat for clear skin, as long as you eat small amounts of them. When too much of a potent source of iodine is eaten, such as kelp, one of the best sources, acne can flare-up big time. In fact, a couple weeks ago, I was suffering from tons of pimples and horrible acne out of nowhere. I wasn’t eating any other foods that triggered acne, except for lots of sea veggies. I love how cleansing and energizing they are, yet they are so potent, you only need a tiny serving to make a difference. I was eating several servings a day in spirulina, kelp noodles, dulse flakes, and powdered supergreens containing the seaweeds. I happened to read an article that said an excess of iodine could cause acne. I let go of all that seaweed for a week and guess what? My skin is completely pimple free. Be sure to keep servings 3-4 times a week if you love to enjoy this food like I do, or simply cut the amount you eat in half and enjoy each day. On the other hand, if you suffer from iodine deficiency, then taking in seaweed could actually improve your skin if you don’t go overboard.
Shellfish is one of the most allergic types of food that most people don’t even realize they are sensitive to. Shrimp, crab and other sources of shellfish can cause acne if you’re sensitive to shellfish allergens. Perhaps you don’t break out in hives, but if you notice a rash or acne eruption on your skin and have eaten shellfish recently, then you may want to consider not eating shellfish to see if it improves. Shellfish is another source of iodine, which as you know now can cause acne flare-ups. Omega 3 rich fish, such as salmon, trout and halibut, seem to actually improve skin issues like acne, so consider eating more of these sources of fish instead of shellfish.
5. Whole Wheat Bread
You’re eating your whole wheat sandwiches and really feeling healthy, right? Or maybe you’re even eating the super-healthy sprouted grain bread to take things up a notch, but that pesky acne just won’t go away. Well, no matter how healthy whole wheat breads and whole grain sprouted breads are, they are still a source of gluten. Gluten is the protein developed in wheat, barley and rye, along with standard oats that aren’t certified gluten-free, and gluten can cause serious issues if you’re sensitive to it. Gluten’s problem has to do with its effect on our guts, which cause acne flare-ups. What most people don’t know is that all acne is a sign of gut-inflammation. When toxins can’t be excreted through the intestines, or too much of one type of nutrient is eaten and can’t be absorbed into the intestines, it enters our bloodstream and tries to finds its way out of the body, which ends up being through the skin. Gluten actually tears teeny, tiny holes in the intestines slowly over time, and even if you’re aren’t allergic, it can still cause skin issues and poor digestion. It can also cause stomach pain or bloating, which are both signs of an intolerance as well. If you eat wheat without any skin issues, then it probably isn’t bothering you, but if you notice breakouts, consider taking a break and getting rid of the gluten. Try switching to a gluten-free bread or gluten-free sprouted bread instead.
I adore strawberries, and all berries for that matter, and strawberries are one of the healthiest berries you can eat, unless you’re prone to acne. Strawberries are one of the best sources of Vitamin C, and though Vitamin C is touted as preventing wrinkles and enhancing the skin, it can also cause breakouts for certain individuals. Strawberries' natural fruit acids, along with their extremely high Vitamin C content, can cause flare-ups in the skin if you’re sensitive to breakouts, especially around your mouth and nose. Like tomatoes, their natural Vitamin C and acid can irritate the skin if you’re especially sensitive. Vitamin C tablets can also cause this. Rotate your berries and use blackberries, blueberries and raspberries in addition to strawberries. Even though other berries contain Vitamin C, strawberries are especially problematic due to their potent dose.
7. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is yet another one of my favorite foods, yet it also causes acne for a lot of people. This can be for a variety of reasons, depending on your personal situation. For some, the natural oils and fats can clog pores and lead to breakouts. For other people, it can be as simple as the natural allergens in peanuts that promote inflammation, gout and acne in sensitive individuals. Whatever the case, it doesn’t mean you have to give up all nut butters. Try using sunbutter, which tastes almost exactly like peanut butter, and is made from roasted sunflower seeds that actually clear acne due to their Vitamin E content. I also love raw almond butter, which is also rich in Vitamin E, protein and contains more fiber and less saturated fat than peanut butter.
Much like Greek yogurt, milk is another food that can cause acne. Whether or not it affects you is dependent on your hormone levels. At the same time, the research is mixed regarding the link between dairy food and acne. Low-fat milk is recommended by many doctors as a way for women to make sure they are getting enough calcium and vitamin D in their daily diets. However, if cutting it out of your diet helps your skin clear up, consider alternative options, such as spinach and salmon. You might also consider a supplement to cover your bases.
Spinach might be one of healthiest foods around. It's loaded with all sorts of important nutrients, including potassium, calcium and iron, while also being low in fat and calories. However, spinach can also contain hefty doses of iodine, a nutrient that you need in trace amounts. However, too much iodine can lead to breakouts for some people. In fact, there is research backing up the fact that high iodine levels can cause pimples, so it pays to use caution if you're susceptible.
You've heard plenty of research that says you should be eating several servings of fish or seafood each week. Many kinds of seafood are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which support many aspects of health, including the heart and brain. Some seafoods, including shrimp, lobster, oysters and crab contain high levels of iodine, which can cause acne in the same way that eating a ton of spinach does. The bottom line is moderation. Go ahead and enjoy your favorite seafood, but don't eat pounds of it every day.
Nothing makes a better snack than a handful of nuts. They are loaded with protein and healthy fats, while also being tasty and easy to eat. However, loading up on too many nuts can cause acne. This is because your body relies on a healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Nuts contain a good amount of omega-6s, but not as many omega-3s, so eating huge amounts of them can alter this balance and lead to acne. You don't have to give up nuts, but you should eat them in moderation. You can also balance them by boosting your leafy green veggie intake to help fine tune your ratio.
We all know junk food like fried foods, too much sugar and alcohol can flare breakouts, but most people would never guess their healthy diet can cause the problems. The good news is balance is the key here, along with careful observation. If you notice a flare-up, enjoy less of the food and treat it as a special occasion food. There are plenty of other healthy foods that can replace the current ones you’re eating that are causing acne. Have you ever broken out with any of these healthy foods above?
This article written in collaboration with editor, Eliza Martinez