Foods That Help With Acne: What to Eat & Avoid (plus Meal Plan)

Foods that help with acne are those that are rich in fiber (like lettuce, pears, carrots, beans, rolled oats and brown rice), as well as omega-3, zinc and vitamins A, C and E. Foods that these nutrients have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help to promote healthy skin.

Foods that are high in refined sugars and saturated fats should be avoided, as these foods trigger skin inflammation, sebum production and the appearance of pimples.

In addition changes to dietary habits, it is also important to exercise regularly, as this helps to control blood sugar, hormonal production and reduce skin oil, which is important for preventing and improving the appearance of acne. 

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Which foods help with acne?

You should include the following foods to help with the appearance of acne and to prevent the formation of new pimples:

1. High-fiber foods

Foods that are high in fiber help regulate blood sugar. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can lead to increased androgen levels, and can also trigger other factors in the body that can worsen acne.

Examples: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, quinoa, rolled oats, wheat bran, oat bran, rye flour, whole grain crackers, seeds (chia, pumpkin and sunflower), lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, nuts, fruits and vegetables in general. Check out a complete list of high-fiber foods that you can include in your diet.

2. Omega 3 and healthy fats

Omega 3, particularly DHA, is a type of monounsaturated fat that helps to make up skin cells. It helps to maintain cell membranes, and keeps the skin healthy, hydrated and supple. In addition, it contains natural anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce skin inflammation and improve acne-related lesions.

Polyunsaturated fats and other monounsaturated fats also have anti-inflammatory properties that help fight acne.

Examples: sardines, tuna, trout, salmon, linseed oil, flax seeds, olive oil, avocado, nuts and oysters. See other omega-3 foods you can add to your diet.

3. Probiotics

Probiotics help maintain the intestinal microbiota, which is important for glucose metabolism and normal insulin levels. They also help to increase the production of fatty acids in the intestines, while its anti-inflammatory properties help to improve and prevent the emergence of acne.

Examples: kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles or kefir. Learn more about other probiotic foods and the benefits they can provide. 

4. Water

Water is essential for hydrating the skin and facilitating the healing process. You should aim to drink between 2 to 2.5 liters of water per day. Try these infused water recipes if you have trouble reaching these quantities of water in a day. 

5. Foods rich in zinc

Zinc is a mineral with anti-inflammatory and healing properties, which can help to speed up the skin's healing process and prevent blemishes or acne scars from appearing. This mineral can also be taken in the form of supplements, as prescribed by your doctor, to help improve acne.

Examples: tofu, eggs, nuts (such as hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios), and legumes such as beans. In addition, zinca can be found in chicken, turkey and beef. Be sure to opt for leaner cuts with less visible fat.

6. Foods rich in vitamin A, C and E

Vitamins A, C and E are powerful antioxidants that help keep skin healthy. Vitamin E promotes the integrity of the skin and improves its firmness, helping to improve its healing. Together with vitamin A, it helps regulate skin keratinization, a process that, together with sebaceous hypersecretion, generates acne.

Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and promotes the healing of wounds caused by acne, in addition to preventing skin hyperpigmentation.

Foods with vitamin A: carrots, papaya, spinach, egg yolks, mango.

Foods with vitamin C and E: lemon, orange, broccoli and avocado.

7. Other foods

Plant-based milks such as almond, hazelnut, oat, coconut and soy milk, can be used to replace milk, as dairy appears to be associated with increased pimple formation.

Foods that cause pimples

Foods that cause pimples are:

  • High-sugar foods, such as cake, cookies and desserts
  • Low-fiber foods, such as white rice, white bread, skinless potatoes and wheat flour
  • Skim or whole milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt with sugar
  • Foods rich in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, fried foods, sausages, microwave dinners, nuggets, pizzas, frozen lasagna, sauces, butter and margarine;
  • Chocolate.

Excessive intake of sugar, milk , dairy products and low-fiber carbohydrates promote high blood sugar levels. This can lead to higher insulin levels, leading to fluctuating androgen levels and therefore increased sebum production.

Furthermore, the steroid compounds present in milk (androgens) contribute to increased skin oiliness and, consequently, the development of bacteria within the hair follicles.

Meal plan

The following table outlines a 3-day sample meal plan that is aimed at helping acne and improving your skin.

Meals Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Breakfast 1 cup of chamomile tea (unsweetened) + 2 scrambled eggs with tomato and onion + 1 whole grain toast + 1 tangerine 1 cup of coffee with almond milk and no sugar + 2 whole grain pancakes (made with oat flour, bananas and cinnamon) and one teaspoon of peanut butter on each pancake + 1 cup of sliced strawberries  1 cup of almond milk + 2 whole grain toasts with avocado + 1 pear 
Morning snack 1 baked apple with cinnamon  1 handful (30g) de nuts + 1 slice of papaya with 1 teaspoon of oats  1 Greek yogurt cup with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and oats 
Lunch 3 sardines with 4 tablespoons of whole rain rice + one salad made with lettuce, tomato and cucumber seasoned with 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil + 1 orange  100 g of chicken breast, grilled, with 4 tabelspoons of whole grain rice and 4 tablespoons of bean soup + one salad with arugula and grated carrots with 1 teaspoon of olive oil + one slice of pineapple  1 cup of whole grain past with 100 g of tuna with natural tomato sauce + salad with broccoli and carrots seasoned with 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil + 1 slice of watermelon
Afternoon snack 1 cup of kombucha with crackers and homemade guacamole 1 cup of coconut milk with 1/2 cup of whole grain granola (unsweetened) + 1/2 sliced banana Smoothie with plant-based milk and 1/2 cup of oats with cinnamon and blueberries or banana
Dinner 1 baked eggplant stuffed with pulled chicken and whole grain rice, seasoned with 1 teaspoon of olive oil 1 cup of salad made with cooked quinoa and boiled egg, tomatoes, corn, beans, avocado and fresh watercress 1 grilled turkey breast with 4 tablespoons of lentils and 4 tablespoons of whole grain rice + salad with 1/4 avocado, cherry tomatoes, purple onions, fresh watercress, seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil

The vegetables and fruits in this meal plan are just an example, and can be adapted depending on the fresh and seasonal local products available.

The amounts included in the menu may vary depending on your age, gender, physical activity level, and your general health status. Ideally, you should consult a registered dietitian for a complete assessment so that you can have a customized eating plan.