– by Cecily Knobler –
We all get food cravings, and that’s totally normal. But wouldn’t it be great if we craved stuff like vitamin A and iron instead of potato chips and candy? Well we actually do, but sometimes our minds trick us into thinking we want things that aren’t necessarily so great for our bodies instead. (And plus, let’s face it; pumpkin pie tastes delicious!)
What we eat, as we can so often tell by the fit of our jeans, affects how we look. But our food doesn’t just affect our size; our skin can tell the world about the nutrients we’re receiving—or the lack thereof. Read on to find out the five worst food/drink offenders when it comes to your skin.
It pains me to share this, but let’s get the toughest truth out the way. Milk chocolate, which is chalk full of sugar and fat, has been known to cause quite a few breakouts. It’s not so much the chocolate itself as it is the fact that diets high in sugar and fats in can cause an inflammatory skin reaction because of the increase of sebum in the body. And because milk chocolate is especially high in these culprit ingredients in addition to dairy (which we’ll get to in a bit), an indulgence can most certainly show in the skin.
Instead Try: Dark Chocolate
There’s good news on the sweets front, however. Dark chocolate in moderation (an ounce here or there) can actually have a positive effect on your body. It’s rich in antioxidants and high in fiber, iron, potassium and more! It also has had proven benefits to the heart. But we’re talking about skin here, so what’s the word on that?
The word is good!
Some nutritionists even theorize that dark chocolate can actually improve one’s skin. It reportedly contains compounds that may protect against UV sunlight, thus helping to protect against skin damage. (Note: Do not use dark chocolate in the place of sunscreen!)
Caffeine: But How Will I Pull An All-Nighter?
Why are the things we enjoy so often bad for us? Beverages (or food) with high amounts of caffeine can raise cortisol hormone levels that can actually thin the skin, exposing wrinkles and fine lines. Caffeine is also a diuretic. That means it can dehydrate the body, which in turn makes skin lose its natural glow. No one wants that! Again, in moderation, it’s fine (in fact numerous studies have shown health benefits to consuming two or three eight-ounce cups per day). But keep the word “moderation” in mind the next time you go to pour yourself another supersized cup.
Instead Try: Decaf (Duh!)
Even I, an obsessive lover of coffee, sometimes forget the decaf option exists. But we should not forget this option; often, it’s merely the ritual of drinking coffee (or tea or other caffeinated drinks) that draws us in. Sure, the boost of energy is exciting, but opting for decaf can have great results on the skin (and your hands certainly shake less.) While the decaffeination process doesn’t eliminate the caffeine completely, it reduces it enough to make a difference in the appearance of your skin, and decaf coffee also shows health benefits, if it’s not instant. Do keep in mind if you have a sensitive stomach that rumbles with coffee consumption, going decaf may not help.
Dairy, Dairy, Quite Contrary
Remember how we talked about sugar and its link to breakouts? Well many dairy products cause a similar reaction. Let’s focus specifically on milk. Lactose, the natural sugar in milk, can increase blood sugar, which can cause negative reactions in the skin. Additionally, in the US and some other countries, cows are given bovine growth hormone. This hormone is present in milk and may trigger an adverse reaction, especially to people who are sensitive to it.
Instead Try: Almond Milk
The deliciousness of almond milk (and other milk substitutes) is, of course, subjective. But keep it in mind as an alternative to dairy milk as it doesn’t contain the hormones of a pregnant cow. Personally, I find soy milk to be a tastier choice, but soy itself has possible controversial risks as hormone imbalance, according to some doctors. Consume it in moderation.
Hold The Fries (And Other Greasy Foods)
While it’s not the case that fatty, fried foods actually cause acne, as has often been purported, they certainly don’t help our skin look its healthiest. As you may have heard over the years, there are “good” oils and “not-so-good” ones. This distinction comes with how our bodies react to these fats and oils. Olive oils, fish oils and some vegetable oils contain nutrients that serve to improve skin. While the jury is out on potential health problems caused by eating certain oils such as safflower, corn and canola, there is no question that hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils carry harsh consequences for your health and the health of your skin.
Cooking technique also matters. Deep-frying causes both a deterioration of the oil and the creation of toxic compounds, especially when deep-frying starches (potatoes, plantain and breaded foods, for example). This can negatively affect your health and your skin in a multitude of ways from the inside, but also from the outside. Grease from fried chicken, for example, can gather in the corners of your mouth, causing little breakouts. I know you’re probably hungry right now because I’m talking about fried chicken, but resist! Step away from the fast food!
Instead Try: A Nice Slice Of Salmon
Ok, I admit this tasty fish may not satisfy a craving for nachos, but you know what? It just might. Sometimes replacing a food high in unhealthy fats with a food high in healthy fats like the best of all—omega-3 fatty acids—makes those cravings disappear. Omega-3 fatty acids (aka omega 3’s) can work to lesson inflammation in the body, which in turn can help reduce skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema and other pesky skin conditions. Of course there are loads of other reasons to increase your intake of omega 3’s (they help you to get and absorb extra vitamin D, for example), but your skin will also benefit greatly. Go on; give it a try!
Slow Your Roll With The Booze
Sure that vodka tonic looks good. And now and again (and in moderate quantities), it won’t cause problems. But excess alcohol is a huge factor in making our skin look, well let’s say, less than stellar. For one, it’s dehydrating, so the skin looks duller and less plump. It can lead to clogged pores, subsequently causing breakouts. Alcohol can also lead to an increase in yeast production, which can cause the skin to look dull, bumpy and splotchy, none of which is good.
Instead Try: How ‘Bout Some Water?
You know that old nugget of wisdom, eight glasses of water a day is good for the soul? No? Well I just made it up. But water is really, really good for the skin for lots of reasons, mainly in that it helps give the moisture your skin so desperately needs. It’s also vital for, I don’t know, staying alive. And while it’s not quite as fun as beer, it will make you feel better in the long run. (Okay, a little beer is fine too. Just remember that moderation thing!