Eating for Good Skin

DECEMBER 3, 2012

I am currently studying to become a Health Coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so I am truly excited to share my own health story with the Quarterlette community.

Let’s talk about skin.

Somehow I made it through high school with a fairly clear complexion.  But while I managed to avoid the freshman 15 in college, I did not escape the embarrassment of “adult acne”, which continued well into my mid 20s.  I would never have classified my acne as severe, but it generally fell somewhere between mild to moderate.  I tried (unsuccessfully) all of the over-the-counter products and saw a few dermatologists who prescribed various topical creams and antibiotics.  One doctor even recommended Accutane but I wasn’t ready to put such a severe and controversial drug into my body.

It is natural for doctors to treat their patients with medicine, but often they do so without considering alternative solutions or possibilities. I always asked my doctors what they thought about the connection between food and acne. Apart from one doctor who said there was maybe a connection with dairy, most of them said no.  Instead, they explained that my hormones were to blame, never thinking that what I ate might influence my hormones.

I have been a vegetarian for two years now, occasionally eating eggs, fish, and very limited dairy. However, a few months ago I decided to give up all processed food, breads, and sugar.  I still make exceptions on various occasions but I have definitely cut down significantly on all of these foods. Within three weeks of making these changes I saw major improvements in my skin. And it wasn’t just me. My friends and family all commented on how much better my skin looked.  I was finally comfortable walking outside without any make-up!  While I do not know if one of these foods, or all of them together, contributed to my clearer skin, I do know that I feel so much healthier eating the way I do now.

The true test came when I went on vacation and strayed from my whole foods way of life.  My skin and digestive tract rebelled.  I truly believe that dairy and sugar are highly addictive, but the cravings go away quickly when you change your habits.  I do not believe that there is one correct solution for everyone, but if you try out a few changes you might just be able to become your own dermatologist!

Here are some small changes I have made:

– Unsweetened almond, soy, or hemp milk instead of dairy milk.
– Avocado instead of cheese
– Oatmeal instead of processed cereals.
– Salads instead of sandwiches to avoid bread and increase vitamins and minerals
– Brown rice, quinoa, or any other whole grain instead of bread with dinner.
– Increase sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash to curb the craving for sweets.
– For dessert, I am a big fan of blending frozen bananas with other frozen fruit, peanut butter, or chocolate.
Many studies have shown that zinc is helpful in improving acne. While many animal products contain high levels of zinc, there are many good plant sources too including adzuki beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, and many seeds and nuts.  A diet rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals will help skin stay clear and vibrant.  Specifically, vitamins A, C, and E are very beneficial.  Orange fruits like mangos, cantaloupes, apricots and peaches are great sources of vitamin A.  Citrus and red berries are great sources of vitamin C.  Avocados and nuts are great sources of vitamin E.

To get you all started on your path to a glowing complexion, here is a super-powered smoothie recipe from the gals at ataleof2kitchens:

Peach, Strawberry & Almond Smoothie
Yield: 2 Servings

1 peach, pitted & cut in quarters
1 cup frozen strawberries (you can use fresh too!)
20 raw almonds
1 cup almond or soy milk (depending on your preference/dietary needs)

Put all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!


  • Devon 5 years ago

    I have struggled with poor skin since my teens and have tried almost every sort of cream, pills (except Accutane, I don’t trust that drug) over the past ten years. It wasn’t until I started eating mostly fruit, veggies, beans and good grains- eliminating meats- that my skin cleared up. I wish more doctors believed in integrative healthcare because I could have had much clearer skin years ago.