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Ask the Doctor: Does my diet really affect my skin?

We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat,” but how much does your diet really affect your skin? We got together with Joshua Zeichner, MD the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center for the real scoop on diet and your skin.

YBA: Which diet is best to follow for healthy skin, and why?

JZ: Most dermatologists agree that the best diet for your skin is the Mediterranean diet.  It is rich in fresh fish, fruits, vegetables and olive oil.  This mix provides the body with a healthy supply of antioxidants to ward off skin cell damage, and fatty acids to help the skin build healthy cell membranes.

YBA: I can’t stand drinking water – does it really make a difference?

JZ: The idea that eight glasses of water a day will keep your skin hydrated is a myth. That being said, there is no evidence that drinking less than eight glasses is harmful.

YBA: I love junk food, but heard that it’s the cause for my breakouts. Is that really true?

JZ: There may be some truth to the association of candy and acne breakouts. Available data does suggest a correlation between foods with a high glycemic index and acne. This means foods that are starchy or sugary.  In addition, milk may play a role in developing pimples. However, we still need more research to understand this more fully.

Recommended Reading:

The Advanced Mediterranean Diet by Steve Parker features 50 recipes for day and night curated from Greece, Italy, the Middle East, Spain and southern France with a focus on fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. According to the author, in spite of consuming more fat than recommended, people from these areas experience fewer instances of heart disease. The key is enjoying moderate quantities of wine and substituting animal fats for nuts and olive oil without ever going “fat free.”

Even if it won’t directly affect your skin, staying hydrated is great for keeping a stable number on the scale. Often, thirst is a false trigger for hunger. So if you feel like you have to choke your water down, don’t swap it for soda or other high-caloric drinks. Try a recipe from Cool Waters: 50 Refreshing, Healthy, Homemade Thirst Quenchers by Brian Preston-Campbell instead. You can dress up your drink with flavored ice cubes or add-ins that will make it delicious.

A glycemic index will help you understand the rate at which foods and carbs are broken down and how quickly sugar is released into your bloodstream. The lower the number in the glycemic index an item falls, the slower your blood sugar rises after consuming it. Besides the skin benefits, lower glycemic diets can help to combat diabetes and heart disease too. Don’t be concerned that low glycemic diets will be bland and flavorless either. In the book 500 Low Glycemic Index Recipes: Fight Diabetes and Heart Disease, Lose Weight and Have Optimum Energy with Recipes That Let You Eat the Foods You Enjoy by Dick Logue, Chapter 18 features 20 pages of desserts so you can satisfy your sweet tooth. The other chapters are organized by meal type as well as main ingredients and ethnic specialties (Asian, Cajun & Creole, Italian and Mexican & Latin American).

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing