As a healthy food writer, I’ve heard before that certain foods could be sneaky acne-causing culprits. In high school, the teen mags I read loved to make the connection between greasy food and zits. And (many) years later, at Well+Good, a colleague marveled at giving up dairy to get rid of her reoccurring outbreaks.
On the other end of the spectrum registered dietitian Meg Hagar’s ‘Grecian goddess’ anti-acne snack, which includes figs, olives, and a plum, definitely won’t cause breakouts, she says.
I reached out to find out how this simple Mediterranean diet-approved snack is connected to clearer skin. Hagar tells me the food combo has three important anti-acne factors. First, it’s low-glycemic. “This means it keeps blood sugar from spiking too high. When that happens, a series of internal events in the body can lead to too much oil production,” Hagar says. Second, it’s high-fiber. “Fiber is great for keeping full, but for acne sufferers specifically supporting the body’s natural detox processes is vital,” she says. “Fiber helps promote bowel motility and having one or more good quality bowel movements every day is essential for healthy and clear skin.” And third, Hagar says the snack is packed with protective and anti-inflammatory antioxidants and polyphenols, which help lower inflammation overall, skin included.
Here, Hagar—along with two other experts—break down why figs, olives, and plums in particular are such anti-acne fighting superstars.
“Figs are also packed with inflammation-fighting and detox-promoting antioxidants,” Hagar says. Registered dietitian Kayla Newcombe, RD, adds that whether fresh or dried, figs provide a range of minerals for skin health including potassium, a vital electrolyte to keep your skin hydrated. She also reiterates what Hagar says about the importance of fiber. “Getting enough fiber in your diet can help to take any excess hormones or toxins out of your body, which may otherwise lead to skin break outs,” she says.
Since acne is a direct response to inflammation, Hagar says it makes sense that anti-inflammatory foods help prevent it, which includes olives. “Olives have a unique blend of powerful components called polyphenols. The specific polyphenols in olives have actually been shown to lower systemic inflammation in the body,” she says. “The powerful antioxidants and oils are good for the skin and hair, giving us a glowing appearance,” adds dermatologist Amanda Doyle, MD. Newcombe points out that olives also contain vitamins A and E, which may help to prevent pimples and keep skin soft.
Dr. Doyle, Hagar, and Newcombe all recommend plums for skin health for the same reason as olives: they’re a great source of antioxidants and polyphenols. Newcombe explains that the deep purple color in plum skins is from anthocyanins, a pigment with strong antioxidant properties. “Anthocyanins give this fruit its skin glowing properties by protecting your skin from damage, and helping to control inflammation, calming skin redness,” she says.
Another reason why plums are an anti-acne food is because of their high vitamin C content. “Vitamin C is important to supporting the structure of the skin—think healing textural acne scarring,” Hagar says.
So there you have it: An easy anti-inflammatory snack. Yet another trophy the Mediterranean diet can add to its collection.
Speaking of the Mediterranean diet, here’s why a registered dietitian says its such a winning eating plan: