Ever wondered how much your diet can affect your skin? Turns out, a lot. At least, that’s what research says (1). Changes in your diet affect not only your overall health but also your skin. This holds especially true for vegans. Ditching poultry and meat is certainly going to help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, but is it really good for your skin? The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. That’s what we will decipher in this article. Let’s begin.
Vegan Diet And Your Skin: Does It Improve Your Skin?
What exactly is a vegan diet? A vegan diet excludes all kind of animal products, including dairy, eggs, and meat. It involves eating only plant-based food items. How exactly does a plant-based diet help you get naturally beautiful skin? Well, when you switch to a vegan diet, you provide dense nutrients to your body. More vitamins and minerals mean a healthy body and glowing skin.
Your skin can benefit from a plant-based diet in multiple ways:
- When you switch to a plant-based diet, you cut down the amount of saturated fat you consume every day. As a result, your body’s insulin function improves, and the production of glucagon increases (2). This controls the sugar metabolism in your body. Imbalance in insulin levels is a major cause of increased sebum production, which clogs the skin pores and causes acne (3).
- When you switch to a plant-based diet, your intake of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants increases. These antioxidants prevent oxidative damage and keep you healthy (4). Additionally, an antioxidant-rich diet helps you fight the harmful free radicals that often cause premature aging. It also prevents photodamage, wrinkles, and inflammation to keep your skin healthy and glowing (5).
- The antioxidants found in a vegan diet also help reduce acne and keep your skin clear. They prevent oxidative stress, reduce the formation of zits, and improve your skin’s radiance (6), (7).
- Collagen is the building block of your body and the component that maintains your skin elasticity. Nutritional antioxidants prevent the degradation of collagen and elastin and, as a result, prevent skin aging (8).
- Did you know that you can get that pinkish glow on your face without using a blush? You can also naturally improve your complexion without using any fairness creams or bleaching agents. It is all possible with a vegan diet. I am not joking! A vegan diet increases the levels of vitamins and carotenoids (aka the plant pigments that are usually red, yellow, or orange) in your body (9). Carotenoids can improve your complexion and enhance the overall appearance of your skin (10).
Whoa! I bet you never imagined that going vegan could improve your skin this much! Veganism has sparked a lot of debate in the past few years. As far as your skin is concerned, it’s clear that there are several benefits of switching to a plant-based diet. But is it right to ditch animal products entirely? Wouldn’t that affect your skin? Let’s find out.
How Ditching Poultry and Meat Affects Your Skin
The answer to this question is not as simple as you think. Some animal products can be the culprits behind several skin issues while others are beneficial for your skin. We will explore both sides of this argument in this section.
An animal-based diet can be the worst food culprit for several reasons:
1. It Causes Acne
A study involving 47,355 women found a definite link between milk consumption and acne. This is because milk produced by pregnant animals (cows and goats) contains high levels of the growth hormone, which causes excess oil secretion and breakouts (11).
2. It Causes Inflammation
Consuming high-fat dairy products, pork, and red meat increases inflammation in your body. It also causes insulin imbalance, which then affects your health and skin (12), (13). Increased levels of inflammation can break down the collagen in your body, joint tissues, and skin. As a result, your skin its loses elasticity and youthful glow.
Additionally, in the first few weeks of quitting an animal-based diet, you may also notice an improvement in your cholesterol levels, energy levels, bowel movements, and sleep. These changes in your overall health have a positive effect on your skin as well.
Quitting an animal-based diet can also negatively impact your skin. Here is how:
1. It May Cause Protein Deficiency
Meat and poultry products contain “high quality” protein (14). It is very difficult to get sufficient protein from a vegan diet alone. The primary sources of protein for vegans are soy, rice, beans, and veggies. Hundred grams of each (about ½ cup) of these foods contains between 5-20 grams of protein. On the flip side, 100 grams of an animal product contains 20-30 grams of protein. Less protein consumption may have a negative impact on your skin, nails, and hair and also affect your immune system.
Of course, you can have hemp protein (which is a high protein source) to bridge the gap, but overconsumption of hemp can increase the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids in your body, which could spell danger for your immune system (15).
2. It May Cause Vitamin Deficiency
Most of the time, people choose simple carbohydrates when on a vegan diet and forget to include enough fruits and vegetables to meet the needs of their body. This can affect the skin. Not supplying adequate vitamins and minerals (especially vitamin B12) to your skin may cause dark circles and dull skin and affect the quality of your hair and nails. Vitamin B12 deficiency can turn your skin pale and also affect the red blood cell levels.
3. It May Cause Calcium Deficiency
A study found that vegans are at high risk of bone fracture because of their low calcium intake (16). Calcium is not only crucial for your bone health, but it is also vital for your skin health. Calcium can affect the structural and biological functions of your skin, which may cause skin issues, such as dry skin (17).
You may be surprised to know that five out of six people who quit meat for a vegan diet return to being omnivore again! A survey done on 11,000 people found that 70% of vegans returned to animal-based diet while 80% of vegetarians did the same (18).
No, we are not discouraging you if you have already made up your mind to turn vegan. We are presenting the facts that might help you make an informed decision. It may seem that a plant-based diet is not sustainable in the long run as it comes with a host of challenges. It’s not impossible, but to follow such a diet, but you will need to consider your social setting, geography of the place, agricultural practices, and availability of fresh produce. What’s the way out?
Striking The Perfect Balance (Which is Equally Cool!)
Research says that a balanced diet that contains a variety of nutrient-rich foods is always good for your health (and your skin). A diet that strikes the perfect balance between animal-based food items and vegetables reduces the risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and a host of other health and skin-related issues (14).
You don’t need to sacrifice your chicken nuggets for glowing skin. Instead, you can tweak your diet a bit to enjoy the best of both worlds and still have healthy skin. Reduce (or cut down completely) your intake of processed food. Do not drink skim milk. Make sure that the milk you are drinking and the meat you are eating are from grass-fed animals (organic and hormone-free).
A vegan diet can be very healthy for you. However, a diet that includes seafood, poultry, and dairy products, along with whole grains and vegetables, can keep your skin healthier. But, at the end of the day, what you put on your plate is entirely your decision. Hope this article helps you gauge the effects and make an informed decision.
What are your thoughts on veganism? Leave them in the comments section below!
- “Diet and Dermatology…” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.
- “Vegan proteins may reduce risk of…” Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Changes in serum desnutrin levels…” European Journal of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Antioxidant activities of various fruits…” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Systemic antioxidants and skin health” Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Oxidants and anti-oxidants status…” Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging” Dermato Endocrinology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Skin anti-aging strategies” Dermato Endocrinology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Vegan diet in physiological…” Acta Physiologica Hungarica, US National Library of Medicine.
- “You are what you eat…” PLOS One.
- “High school dietary dairy intake…” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Saturated Fatty Acid…” The Journal of Nutrition.
- “How Does Meat Cause Inflammation?” Nutritionfacts.org
- “Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet…” Food and Nutrition Research, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid”, ScienceDirect.
- “Health effects of vegan diets” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- “Role of Micronutrients in Skin Health and Function” Biomolecules and Therapeutics, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Study of Current and Former Vegetarians and Vegans” Humane Research Council