With a huge amount of diets that claim to be beneficial to your health and skin, we have rounded up the four most popular diets, their historical background and composition, and their effect on your overall health and skin. Which one, if any, will you adapt into your daily routine?1. Keto diet
The ketogenic diet (or “keto diet”) is a worldwide phenomenon. This eating style was designed back in the early 1920s by Mayo Clinic's doctor Russell Wilder. He discovered that this diet mimicked a fasting state in the body, which helped to reduce and control seizures. With the advent of anti-seizure medications, most doctors stopped recommending the keto diet except in cases wherein patients were resistant to
drug therapy. The keto diet enjoyed a resurgence in 2013 when Science Magazine published a study carried out by The Gladstone Institutes that proved low-carb and low-calorie diets delay the aging process. The keto craze, however, began when American podcaster Tim Ferris interviewed a series of experts on the health benefits, including weight loss, of the keto diet. The podcasts went viral, and the rest is history.
How does keto diet work? When on keto, your aim is to get around 90% of your calories from FAT! You are only allowed to get 20-50 grams of carbs per day. Even half a portion of fruit could exceed your daily carb requirements. You are only allowed to eat super low-sugar fruits (like berries), non-starchy vegetables, avocadoes, cold-pressed oils, nuts & seeds, coconuts, tofu, cacao butter, eggs, seafood, poultry, red meat, and fatty dairy products. The goal of the keto diet is to induce a state of ketosis in the body. This means that instead of relying on carbs as the main fuel source, you will get all the energy it needs from fat. When the body is deprived of carbs, the liver is prompted into breaking down stored fat to produce ketone bodies. You need to diligently stick to the keto diet for a few days in order to reach a ketosis state.
The purported health benefits of the keto diet are, literally, all over the place. Besides shedding those unsightly extra pounds, evidence suggests that a ketogenic regime improves cognitive/heart function, supports autoimmune diseases treatment, prevents certain cancers, normalizes blood sugar and hormonal levels, etc.
The skin gets from the keto diet a nice “stash” of benefits too. Since all the allowed foods rank low in the glycemic index, it will help to reduce the severity and frequency of acne breakouts (perhaps, even heal it). Dairy products are also limited, which means the levels of the acne-promoting insulin-like growth factor-1 will be significantly diminished. A sugar-free diet will keep glycation at bay and promote a younger looking appearance. To learn more about the mechanics of all these processes, please refer to our beauty myths post. The starvation-like state produced by ketosis as well as the omega 3 rich-foods that the ketogenic diet includes, make it a highly effective tool against conditions such as psoriasis.
As you can expect, eating all that fat has its own share of drawbacks. The most notable one is the increase of the C-reactive protein, which acts as a pro-inflammatory agent in the body. This explains why some people experience an aggravation of their skin condition. If most of your fat intake comes from saturated sources, it will mess up with your hormones and trigger excess sebum production and breakout formation. Transepidermal water loss is common in people who follow a keto diet. The body needs to urinate frequently to flush ketone bodies, and this causes the body to lose water. If you are not careful with your water intake, you could end up with severely dehydrated skin (and we know all too well that can translate into dullness, fine lines, wrinkles, and lack of firmness).
Moreover, Keto diets do not provide enough minerals and vitamins, hence you could end up developing deficiencies that affect the health of your skin. The amount of fiber present in this diet is minimal leading to constipation problems and disturbances of the microbiota. Skin problems will certainly ensue without proper elimination of waste material and a weak friendly flora. The most worrisome side effect of the keto diet is a rash known as prurigo pigmentosa, which is characterized by red lesions that have a network pattern. It is believed that the ketosis state, with the formation of ketone bodies, is responsible for this rash. Symptoms might subside after a few weeks, but some people will need treatment, antibiotics and corticosteroids, and reintroduce carbs into their diet.
The keto diet is extremely difficult to sustain, and there are no scientific studies that have proven their long-term benefits on the skin. For this reason, experts recommend instead to stick to a whole food diet that minimizes, or eliminates if possible, the consumption of high-glycemic foods and dairy products.
2. Vegan Diet
The term vegan was coined back in 1944 by Donald Watson to distinguish non-dairy/non-eggs vegetarians from those who do consume some animal-derived products. A Vegan diet is the quintessential vegetarian diet because it eliminates every single food of animal origin. This means that there is no dairy, eggs and even bee products. Veganism is much more than just a diet; it is actually a lifestyle. Vegans do not wear any clothes or use any materials/products that are made with animals. They even go as far as turning down jobs and activities that involve animal suffering.
The first skin benefit of the vegan diet that comes to mind is the lack of dairy products. We have extensively talked about how dairy contributes to excess sebum formation and inflammation, thus causing or aggravating acne. Vegan diets contain plentiful antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and vitamins that promote a super healthy and glowy complexion. These nutrients are known for reducing inflammation, deeply moisturizing the skin, evening the skin tone, protecting against environmental aggressors, and delaying the onset of aging signs. Speaking about the latter, there are pretty compelling studies out there that show plant-based diets reverse and prevent aging. It can even lengthen the telomeres, which are the ends of the chromosomes that shorten as the years go by.
The following fact is not openly being discussed in keto circles: the more animal foods you eat, the more inflammation you will experience. This is so because these foodstuffs are rich in choline, and when it is broken down by our little “gut critters” it will result in the production of trimethylamine. This compound is further transformed by the liver into the super inflammatory, and skin anti-hero, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). When you ask wellness and holistic skincare experts what is the number one factor that contributes to poor skin health they will always answer: inflammation. So, now you know why it is important to center your diet around plants.
Prebiotic-rich foods abound in the vegan diet, unlike the keto diet. Prebiotics fiber feed our friendly flora, thus help it thrive and keep it strong. Studies have shown that acne, eczema, skin sensitivity and UV-damage can be prevented when our gut bugs are properly balanced.
Not all vegan diets are health-promoting, though. Attention should be paid to the consumption of excess refined sugars, hydrogenated fats, and other processed foods. These will just stimulate glycation as well as sebum secretion. If you are thinking about going vegan, or you already follow a vegan diet, make sure you are assessed by a health practitioner that is well-versed in this lifestyle. It is not really that complicated to eat vegan, but it is better to be coached by someone who knows the nuts and bolts of this diet to secure proper nutrient intake. Making sure you incorporate good-quality proteins and omega-3 fatty acids is a must, and some supplements will need to be taken, such as vitamins B12 and D, to avoid any possible deficiencies that can be observed as dark under-eye circles, dry/dull/sensitive skin, etc.
3. Paleo Diet:
Even though Dr. Loren Cordain made the Paleo diet popular, it was actually Dr. Walter Voegtlin, a gastroenterologist, who created it back in the 1970s. Dr. Voegtlin based his diet on the foods that Paleolithic humans ate: fruits, vegetables, honey, nuts & seeds, free-range eggs, fish, organic poultry, certain root veggies, cold-pressed oils, and grass-fed meat. Dairy, grains, legumes, salt, and processed foods are not allowed in the Paleo diet as they were not available in the Stone Age Era. Dr. Voegtlin believed that following such a dietary regime would ward off most ailments, and even help to reverse them.
Dr. Cordain, along with other experts, think that the digestive system of human beings did not adapt well to the foods that were later introduced during the agricultural era, hence causing a multitude of health issues. Many of them were not designed to be eaten by humans in the first place (like dairy products), while others contain antinutrients. Dr. Cordain and his colleagues do have a point against dairy, but the antinutrients of grains and cereals can be neutralized/eliminated by sprouting and cooking. Critics also argue that Paleolithic man was not super healthy as the proponents of Paleo diets want us to believe. Hardened arteries (atherosclerosis) and heart disease were prevalent in Paleo adults and many of them did not live past the age of 40. Adding to this controversy are the archeology findings. According to Dr. Christina Warriner, traces of grains and legumes have been found in the dental plaque of primitive humans. Furthermore, tools to grind cereals and seeds were dug out of excavation sites wherein human beings lived approximately 30,000 years ago. This means that the “modern Paleo diet” does not resemble the original version. Plus, the diets of our forebears varied greatly according to location. Those who lived in the colder climates had to base their diets on meats, while those located in the tropical regions had more access to fruits, vegetables, and fish.
Since all Paleo diets are free from processed foods, gluten (present in certain grains) and dairy products, we can certainly expect them to support healthy skin. Those who follow it will be less prone to acne and other inflammatory disorders. Generally speaking, the foods allowed in the Paleo diet do provide a decent amount of fiber, antioxidants and do not significantly raise blood sugar levels. This means that it prevents premature aging (by minimizing glycation) and promotes a healthy microbiome, thus contributing to a glowy complexion.
A word of caution: Animal foods should not make the bulk of Paleo diets. Those who stick to Paleo recommend that around 70% of the total food weight should come from plants and not meat. Otherwise, you will be at risk of producing extremely high levels of the ultra-inflammatory compound trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).
4. Mediterranean Diet:
Despite the rising popularity of low-carb diets, experts still agree that the number 1 diet is the Mediterranean. American physiologist Ancel Keys and his wife, Margaret Keys, took the long-standing dietary traditions of the Mediterranean Basin, countries located around the Mediterranean Sea, to design this diet in the early 1950. We know that the eating habits of such regions have been around forever, but the Keys couple created a system out of them and made it popular around the world.
Its popularity stems from the very good health enjoyed by Mediterraneans as well as the exceptionally low incidence of chronic diseases registered in the area. Not to mention that this diet is beyond appealing as it maximizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, tubers, olives, olive oil, herbs, and whole grains. Fish, seafood, eggs, poultry, and dairy products (namely yogurt and homemade cheese) are eaten in moderate amounts. Red meats and processed foods are kept to a minimum. Wine is an important part of the Mediterranean culture, as well as water intake, frequent physical activity, spending time outdoors, taking naps, and establishing nurturing relationships. It would be proper to say that the Mediterranean diet is actually a lifestyle.
The ratio of macronutrients of the Mediterranean diet is as follows: 55–60% carbohydrates (80% are complex carbohydrates like rice and potatoes , 10–15% proteins and 25–30% fat. As you can see, these rations correspond to those recommended by nutritionists on a balanced diet. So, the Mediterranean regimen is pretty easy to follow.
When it comes to skincare, there are many benefits that we can obtain from it too. Antioxidants abound in this diet, which combat inflammation and free radicals that are responsible for acne as well as the early onset of aging. The low glycemic index nature of the Mediterranean diet makes it the perfect tool for preventing breakouts and the formation of inflammatory lesions. The Mediterranean diet does call for the consumption of some dairy products, but they are generally those who have undergone some form of fermentation. This makes them a great source of probiotics that support the health of the skin from the inside-out. Let's not forget that all the fiber provided by fruits, vegetables, cereals, and legumes act as prebiotics that will feed the good bacteria. There are tons of amazing omega-3 sources in the Mediterranean diet. These fatty acids are utilized by the body to soften, soothe, moisturize, nourish, and protect the complexion. Last, but not least, all the water-rich foods that are consumed in the Mediterranean diet, alongside the pure water intake, maintain the skin hydrated, plump and prevent transepidermal water loss. The downside of the Mediterranean diet is that not all cultures have access to these foods, and some people do not tolerate dairy or gluten-containing grains. You will need to tweak the diet a little bit to make it work for you.
Some diets have come to stay, while others are just fads that compromise the integrity of our health (including that of the skin). The key for a clear and beautiful complexion is a diet that includes all macronutrients in the proper ratios and minimizes the consumption of refined foods. Keep your regimen sustainable and wholesome to avoid extra stress that will only wreak havoc on your skin. If you follow this simple advice, you will be able to cover all your skin´s nutritional needs and achieve a flawless complexion. For more information regarding your skin’s health, make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Linkedin.