Your skin is your body’s biggest organ. So it makes sense that how you refuel it will have an impact on how it functions.
We all want healthy, glowing skin that’s free of lumps, bumps and annoying pimples and while your diet isn’t the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to beating acne, it can potentially help manage the problem.
A quick Google search will tell you to avoid everything from chocolate to grains to all animal foods to clear up your skin, but I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news – there’s not a lot of sound scientific evidence supporting these claims. What could help, however, is switching to a low-GI diet.
What’s a low-GI diet?
Time for a quick science lesson: the glycaemic index (GI) is a ranking of the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down after you eat them. Foods with a high GI are broken down rapidly. This spikes your blood sugars, which soon come crashing down. Foods with a low GI, on the other hand, are broken down slowly, so your blood sugars gently rise and fall over a longer period of time.
And what’s that got to do with acne? The breakdown of carbohydrates into your blood stream triggers the release of insulin, a hormone which moves the sugar from your blood into your body’s cells. So, a higher GI food = a greater insulin response. This spikes another hormone called insulin-like growth factor, which has been linked to breakouts.
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Low GI foods for healthy skin
Science-y stuff aside, there’s some pretty simple tweaks you can make to your diet to lower the glycaemic index. So, without further ado, here are 10 high GI foods and their healthier, lower GI alternatives.
1. White bread
Replace refined white bread with a wholegrain loaf (read: brown bread with visible grains and seeds). Not only is it low GI, it’ll also boost your intake of gut-loving fibre and essential micronutrients.
2. White potato
Most white potatoes are high GI with the exception of a few special varieties like Nicola and Carisma. If you can’t find those, swap your white spud for an orange sweet potato.
3. Soft drink
Jam-packed with added sugar, soft drink is a sure-fire way to spike your blood sugars. Instead of this high GI sip, try something like kombucha or fruit-infused mineral water.
4. Instant oats
Also known as porridge or quick oats, instant oats are rolled old oats that have been chopped into tiny pieces. This makes them quicker to cook, but also quicker to digest and therefore higher GI. So, make the switch back to rolled oats.
5. Rice milk
If you’re off the dairy train, you might’ve picked up rice milk as a plant-based alternative. The bad news, however, is that rice milk is high GI. So, try soy milk as a low GI non-dairy milk – and make sure it’s fortified with calcium to maintain strong bones.
6. Short grain rice
All short grain rice is high GI, whereas long grain rice is low GI. Try long grain varieties like Basmati or Doongara in your homemade fried rice, stir fries and risottos in place of short grain Jasmine or Arborio.
7. Cous cous
Regular couscous is high GI but an easy, low GI substitution is pearl couscous. If you can’t find it, try quinoa. It’s relatively high in protein and fibre, and you’ll get the added wholegrain benefits.
8. Instant noodles
Yes, they’re quick and easy, but instant noodles aren’t doing your health any favours. Vermicelli, soba and udon noodles are healthier alternatives that won’t spike your blood sugars as dramatically.
9. Rice crackers
Made from refined rice flour, rice crackers are quickly digested. A healthier, lower GI alternative is wholegrain crispbreads like Vita-Weat or Ryvita.
I know they’re a yummy pick-me-up, but just like soft-drink, lollies are chock-full of added sugar, which sends your blood sugars sky rocketing. As boring as it sounds, it’s best to fix your sweet tooth naturally with a fresh piece of fruit instead.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.