The best get-flawless-skin regimen? It's not a trendy spa treatment. It's a way of eating. Yeah, yeah, we know that for years, experts said greasy foods and chocolate don't cause pimples and that, overall, what you eat has no effect on your skin. But research proves otherwise. So follow these four rules on how to feed your face.
Lay Off the White Stuff
Turns out french fries do cause breakouts. But it's not the grease that's the culprit, it's the potatoes. In a recent study, researchers looked at 1,200 natives of an island near Papua New Guinea and 115 hunter-gatherers in Paraguay and couldn't find a single zit in the lot. What's their secret? "A diet that consists almost exclusively of protein, fruits, and veggies," says Loren Cordain, PhD, professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University and lead author of the study. Absent from their meals: the simple carbohydrates — such as white bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and sweets — that are the basis of our modern diet. These carbs send our insulin levels soaring, and researchers speculate that this sets off a series of reactions that leads to breakouts.
Simple food switch: Instead of refined white carbs, go for moderate amounts of complex ones like whole-grain bread, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta (they're digested more slowly and don't lead to that skin-sabotaging insulin spike).
Fish is a great source of essential fatty acids (EFAs) like omega-3 and omega-6, which reduce inflammation in the body. "Inflammation triggers the cells to clog the pore, causing acne," says Nicholas Perricone, a dermatologist and author of The Perricone Prescription. "It also leads to wrinkles down the line." The fish that contain the most EFAs are salmon, mackerel, and tuna (particularly the albacore and bluefin varieties). EFAs are also found in almonds, hazelnuts, and flaxseed.
Simple food switch: Have smoked salmon for breakfast, eat tuna-fish sandwiches for lunch, and swap hamburgers for salmon burgers. If fish isn't your thing, make a handful of almonds your afternoon snack.
Banish Blush Triggers
While a little bit of color in your cheeks is flattering, full-on ruddiness isn't exactly the look you're after. And certain foods and beverages, such as spices, cured meats, MSG, and alcohol (particularly red wine), cause blood vessels to dilate, bringing on facial redness, says John Wolf, MD, chairman of the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Simple food switch: If you tend to redden easily, pay attention to which foods bring it on, since people have different triggers. If spicy foods get you, order Thai without the curry and steer clear of wasabi when you go for sushi.
Indulge in Olive Oil
If you avoid fat for the sake of your waistline, your face could be paying the price. "A lot of young women have dry, flaky skin because they don't eat enough fat," says Joy Bauer, a nutritionist in New York City and author of The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan. If you're getting fewer than 20 grams of fat a day (roughly 2 tablespoons of oil), your skin may not be able to lubricate itself and your body may not absorb enough vitamin A, which your skin needs to prevent premature aging.
Simple food switch: Sprinkle your salad with olive oil and toss in some avocados and nuts. We swear, this won't have an adverse effect on your jeans size.