College students across the globe covet the secret to naturally clear skin. This may sound like a gimmick straight from a TV commercial, but I don't know anyone who would turn down such an offer. Turns out, our consumption of low-glycemic foods can reduce acne dramatically. It's no secret that hormones and acne are directly linked. Fluctuations in hormones (stress, periods, finals, ex-boyfriends enter stage left) often cause flare-ups.Insulin, the hormone that regulates blood glucose levels, increases when we consume foods rich in carbohydrates. These increases can range from subtle to dramatic spikes, depending on the Glycemic Index of the food. The Glycemic Index measures how quickly our blood sugar rises in response to a certain food. Lower GI foods exhibit a more tapered rise, versus high GI foods, which are marked by dramatic spikes.
Increased insulin sets off a whole cycle of hormonal fluctuations, one of which is oil production. This increase in oil production will therefore aggravate acne-prone skin. Let's not be too harsh on ourselves: eating is a necessity and snacking more than an inevitability. Below are five big swaps you can make to lessen the glycemic impact of your diet and beat the stress-induced acne we all know and hate.
1. Ditch Pasta for ZoodlesZoodles are spiralized zucchini (hence, zucchini noodles) and can be eaten raw or slightly cooked. They imitate the shape and texture of spaghetti or egg noodles without the empty, high GI carbohydrates. Toss zoodles in your favorite sauce, and the bursting flavor will trick you into thinking it's the real thing. Zucchini is also more nutrient dense than white pasta, so it's a win-win.
2. Ditch White Rice for Quinoa
Quinoa is a complete protein (shoutout to all my fellow vegetarians and vegans out there), contains a healthy dose of fiber, and has a fluffy yet chewy texture that nearly perfectly imitates rice. Whole Foods even sells quinoa sushi rolls. The increased fiber and protein content make this a lower GI carbohydrate. You will have less of an energy crash, and feel fuller longer.
3. Ditch Juice for Detox Water
Water can get pretty boring. Instead of drinking sugar bombs in the form of juice and soda, simple water infusions can add flavor and interest to one of your eight a day. Being hydrated also reduces your risk for acne flare-ups. Slice berries, cucumber, or julienne some mint and add to a glass or pitcher of water. In an hour or so, you will have an inexpensive alternative to ordinarily pricey infused drinks.
4. Ditch Milk Chocolate for Cacao NibsCommercial chocolate bars are loaded with sugar and other cheap, refined ingredients. When you're next craving a cocoa-fix, go directly to the source. Cacao nibs, the unprocessed source of cocoa powder, have all the flavor and richness of chocolate without the insulin-spiking sugar. Sprinkle the nibs onto porridge, yogurt, ice cream, or eat them alone.
5. Ditch Mashed Potatoes for Mashed Cauliflower
Admittedly I'm biased: living in Scotland has put me off potatoes for life. However, there is a very real reason to ditch classic white spuds in favor of mashed cauliflower. Cauliflower is full of fiber and nutrients and is significantly less carbohydrate-dense than white potatoes. With the right seasonings, you'll hardly notice the difference in this variation on a classic.
Ultimately, our skin's appearance boils down to a combination of genetic, environmental, and dietary factors. We cannot control our genes, but certain nutritional swaps can undoubtedly freshen our skin's appearance, as well as contribute to our overall health and well-being.