The reality is that as an acne patient, you have three possible futures. Firstly, you could follow the path of mainstream dermatology, of creams and benzoyl peroxide, leading to years more acne.
Secondly, you could acquire moderate knowledge of the many natural acne cures, and finally clear your skin. Or finally, you could really get the skin of your dreams, and push your skin to a level you never thought imaginable.
If you refuse to settle for anything less than this then what you need are the advanced nutritional hacks, beyond the bread and butter natural strategies. We’ve discussed a few of them on this website already. Cold showers are brilliant for skin tone, lightly steaming broccoli encourages the release of anti-inflammatory sulforaphane. Black coffee beats milk coffee since milk significantly reduces antioxidant absorption (study).
The red meat and red wine combo is another one. Eat red meat by itself and you run the risk of free radical exposure due to carcinogens formed in cooking. Eat your steak with a glass of red wine and according to this study, the antioxidant helping will deactivate the carcinogens whilst in the stomach. Grass-fed red meat is already a great food for acne; with this trick you can make it better.
The happy fact is that you’ll probably never run out of room to improve. The job isn’t done the moment you get your sugar intake under 50 grams a day, or replace a bowl of cereal with eggs each morning. With some expertise and strategic planning you can get truly amazing skin.
That’s why this article will supply you with another secret weapon – the avocado.
Avocados can increase acne nutrient absorption
To sum it up, the avocado fruit has a variety of acne-clearing powers. It’s fairly nutritious, has a strong fat profile, and has all sorts of powers in studies. But the one special trick which we’re most interested in is its power to increase vitamin A and carotenoid absorption when eaten with a meal.
Vitamin A is the most effective nutrient you can take for oily skin. It binds to receptors in your sebaceous glands and downregulates their activity to normality; furthermore, vitamin A keeps a leash on keratin production as well (keratin is the second player in clogged pores).
Carotenoids, meanwhile, are a wide family of fat-soluble antioxidants which include beta-carotene and lutein. Carotenoids can both convert to vitamin A and protect your face against free radicals.
Both carotenoids and vitamin A are excellent nutrients for acne. By adding avocado to a meal containing them you can extract far more than you would otherwise, and that’s why avocado is a secret nutritional hack for acne. The average person eats avocado alone, thinking of heart health, but its uses go beyond that.
This is largely due to its high fat content, but interestingly, avocado seems to enhance fat-soluble nutrient absorption even stronger than other fatty foods.
To date, two studies have been performed on the subject. The first one contained two separate experiments. One 12-patient group was served a meal of tomato sauce derived from a particularly carotene-rich tomato species, both with and without fresh avocado. The second 12-patient group was given a meal of fresh carrots, both with and without avocado-containing guacamole.
In both experiments, avocado significantly enhanced blood carotenoid absorption and the conversion of carotenoids to vitamin A. Tomato sauce plus avocado caused a 2.4 fold increase in blood beta-carotene levels compared with the sauce alone. In the carrot plus avocado group there was a 6.6 fold and 4.8 fold enhancement of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene absorption respectively.
Meanwhile, tomato sauce plus avocado increased the mean conversion of carotenoids to active vitamin A from 22% to 33%, a 50% increase. The range of conversion among patients increased from 5-47% to 22-48%. For the carrot meal, avocado brought the mean conversion of carotenoids from 27% to 34%, a 26% increase.
The second study once again contained two separate meals. The first was salsa with bread and the second was a salad including carrots, lettuce, baby spinach (three carotenoid rich vegetables), bread and a dressing which was fat-free to avoid skewing the results. This time varying doses of the avocado were used as well, 75 grams and 150 grams.
Avocado increased beta-carotene absorption in the 11 patient strong salsa group 2.6 fold. The tomato carotenoid lycopene was also tested in this study; avocado enhanced absorption 4.4 fold.
In the salad experiment, meanwhile, adding 150 grams of avocado increased alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein absorption 7.2, 15.3, and 5.1 fold respectively. Interestingly, there was no variation in the carotenoid absorption between the 75 gram and 150 gram addition of avocado.
What you must do
The ordinary acne patient discovers that avocados are rich in nourishing fats, and eats one as a snack every day. The next level acne patient combines avocado with carotenoid rich foods, and enhances the powers of both.
Your way forward is clear. Add avocado to your diet, or if you already eat avocado, rearrange your diet to place it alongside as many carotenoid rich foods as you can.
Salads are the ultimate solution. You can first specifically load your salad with the best plant foods for carotenoids and vitamin A. These include all varieties of lettuce except for iceberg, spinach, kale, pumpkin, tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, bell peppers, and more.
Remember that low vitamin A does not equal low carotenoid – watermelon is high in the anti-inflammatory carotenoid lycopene, for example. Sweet potatoes are the optimal carbohydrate source for acne, so add avocado to a plateful after a gym session. Soups are ideal as well, whether based on carrots, tomatoes or bell peppers.
You almost certainly have your own arsenal of acne-friendly recipes – analyse them and see how rich in carotenoids they are. The beauty is that only small quantities of avocado are required, as the study demonstrated.
The end result of this avocado trick will be very visible. Significantly less oily skin thanks to the vitamin A. A significantly brighter and healthier skin tone thanks to the carotenoids, and significant reduced acne thanks to both.
If you’re unaware, then there’s two types of vitamin A. Retinol is the animal based form found in eggs; this converts to active vitamin A extremely easily. Beta-carotene and alpha-carotene meanwhile are the plant forms of vitamin A. They are “pro-vitamin A” compounds; the body has to convert them before they work, and often this conversion is highly inefficient. In genetically predisposed people the rate can be as poor as 5%.
The addition of avocado to foods like carrot can unlock this bonus vitamin A and unlock the extra potential for your skin. In fact, the first study found that people with inferior carotenoid conversion benefitted the most. If you’re a vegan and can’t eat foods like eggs then avocadoes are a particularly excellent weapon.
How exactly does it work? In the study scientists simply deemed the high fat content of avocado to be responsible. However, a separate study analysed the effect of canola oil, butter, and soybean oil on carotenoid absorption in salad.
Canola oil, which is mostly monounsaturated fat, was superior to the saturated (butter) and polyunsaturated fats (soybean). The other two were dose-dependent, especially soybean oil, whereas canola oil enhanced the absorption at any dosage.
The avocado is 71% monounsaturated fat on average, mostly in the form of oleic acid. This may be the explanation, but the study reveals a wider picture – that not all fats are created equal for enhancing fat-soluble nutrient absorption.
Could the specific fatty acid composition in avocado be even better than canola oil? It’s likely; the 6.6 fold and 4.8 fold increases are disproportionately huge.
Among fats casually labelled “monounsaturated”, there are still significant differences. Oleic acid is found in 61% and 65% concentration in canola oil and avocado oil, but avocado oil has a 5.8% concentration of a rarer monounsaturated fat called palmitoleic acid. Canola oil has none. Avocado oil is 14% palmitic acid, canola oil is 4%.
There’s many such variations, so the mystery continues.
Do avocados have any downsides?
Yes but they are wildly overstated. Once more it relates to the fat content. Avocado is a particularly beloved fruit (they are botanically a fruit, not a vegetable) among hardcore paleo enthusiasts, specifically the ones following ketogenic diets.
Many believe that prehistoric man would have highly limited access to starchy carbohydrates but much higher access to fat – hence it is natural for a human being to become “fat-adapted” at regular intervals. Athletes from many sports utilise the ketogenic diet as well, particularly for rapid weight loss.
Avocado has become popular among them and other low carbers due to its high fat content. Some are allergic to nuts, some are vegetarians – hence avocado has become popular as a breakfast food.
However, there’s a subsection of the paleo community which actually hates the avocado. Why? Because of its very poor omega 6/3 ratio. Avocado contains 15 grams of fat per 100 grams, and it has a ratio of omega 6 (linoleic acid) to omega 3 (linolenic acid) of 18:1.
For health and for acne it is ideal to have a balanced omega ratio of 1:1, or at the most, 3:1 in favour of omega 6. Too much omega 6 in the tissues leads to an overactive immune system and more inflamed acne; omega 3s are needed to constrain the immune system. The ratio of avocados is very poor compared to walnuts, for example, with 4:1 in favour of omega 6.
Hence the omega 6 content is by far the main criticism levelled at avocado in natural health communities. But do you really need to worry about it? No. This is hardly an obstacle all. The overall polyunsaturated fat content of an avocado is too insignificant to make a dent in your broader dietary intake.
A mere 15.5% of the 15 grams of total fats in avocado are polyunsaturated; 14.7% are omega 6s and 0.8% are omega 3s. That equals just 1.1 grams of omega 6 per 50 grams of avocado, a suitable serving for our objectives. Meanwhile, by eating a meal of salmon you ingest 2.3 grams of omega 3s. The omega 6 ratio of avocados is poor for acne on paper, but no problem in practise unless you somehow get addicted to them.
Even better, the broader fat composition of avocado is beneficial for acne, even outside of the nutrient absorption benefits.
65% of the fat in avocado is oleic acid, the most common monounsaturated fat. Oleic acid (omega 9) is responsible for the heart health benefits of olive oil observed in Mediterranean counties, and has strong acne-clearing properties when eaten.
This study observed a decrease in the inflammatory biomarker C – reactive protein and the pro-inflammatory chemical interleukin-6 after oleic acid consumption. This study concluded that among 1556 Japanese men, those with diets richer in oleic acid enjoyed significantly reduced CRP. The relatively rare palmitoleic acid (5.6% of avocado fats) was linked to more restful and rapid sleep in this study; sleep deprivation is a one way ticket to acne city.
The only legitimate acne risk from avocado is an allergy. However, they are fairly rare if not unheard of. What’s more there are no specific compounds like tomatine in tomatoes or glycoalkaloids in potatoes which are known to trigger sensitivities. The sugar content is also miniscule at 0.7 grams per 100 grams. The odds are high that you can take advantage of avocado with no headaches.
Is there any bonus nutrition for acne?
Yes, and this is another advantage. Firstly, the vitamins and minerals in avocados aren’t really their forte. Interestingly the area where they are far more hyped up is where they are far less potent. If you follow the recommended acne strategy and add a 50 gram dose of avocado to a salad of carrots and romaine lettuce you will add the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C – 8% of the recommended daily allowance.
- Vitamin A – 1%.
- Magnesium – 3%.
- Zinc – 2%.
- Vitamin E – 5%.
- Potassium – 7%.
- Manganese – 3%.
- Vitamin B6 – 6%.
At first glance, a decent but unspectacular selection. There’s a strong variety of nutrients but exceptional quantities of none. The lettuce, carrots and bell peppers will provide the bulk of the acne-clearing vitamins and minerals in your salad bowl.
However, the fat-soluble nutrients within the avocado will benefit from its own enhanced absorption, so the vitamin E will be significantly better absorbed compared to in an isolated sweet potato. The vitamin E could actually be the equivalent of 25% of the RDA.
Avocadoes are also a decent antioxidant source, scoring 1922 and hence 961 with our optimal serving. Most of them are fat soluble as well. For instance, avocado contains 271mcg of the carotenoid lutein, a powerful antioxidant also found in eggs, kale and spinach.
Kale, the world’s best source, has vastly more lutein, with 18,246mcg. However, avocado comes with all its fats, possibly making it the equivalent of more like 1355mcg. Avocados also contain other carotenoids such as trans-neoxanthin, neochrome, 6-epoxide and chrysanthemaxanthin. If we assume that most of the antioxidants are fat-soluble, and multiply the entire ORAC score, then 50 grams of avocado would equal 4805, more than a serving of strawberries.
Avocado is a better antioxidant food than it is for raw nutrients, no matter what you might have read. One interesting study tested avocado oil (15% of raw avocado by weight) on human skin cells; compounds called polyhdroxylated fatty alcohols exerted a protective effect against UV radiation, acting as a non-sunscreen natural buffer.
This study was topical, but in the likes of eggs and dark chocolate, antioxidants are proven to concentrate in skin cells after they’ve been eaten. Avocados would be a godsend for acne if the process was replicated. PFAs are unique to avocado among land plants; elsewhere they’re only found in seaweeds. In fact, trans-neoxanthin, neochrome, 6-epoxide and chrysanthemaxanthin are also unique.
Therefore as well as massively increasing your carotenoid absorption, providing you with a bright and healthy skin tone, avocado will provide many of its own antioxidants. All this comes without major downsides.
Combining avocados with carrots, lettuce, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon and more is a powerful acne hack which you should utilise if you can.
Do you eat a salad with those foods daily? Add 50 grams of avocado, and continue for four weeks. One day you might glance in the mirror before stepping outside and be shocked at the glowing quality of your skin.
This study found that dietary carotenoids contribute measurably and significantly to healthy skin colour. This one found that carotenoid consumption correlated to skin yellowness, AKA the “glow” which we always talk about.
The more advanced knowledge you gain, the better your chances to get great skin. You have the potential to make your skin look alive rather than clear but unhealthy.
The best part? It isn’t even hard. The tricks and secrets don’t end here. For example, an equivalent strategy is adding black pepper to savoury foods; the compound piperine enhances the absorption of antioxidants like curcumin in addition to minerals such as selenium. This article on cheap tricks for acne is recommended reading.
If you refuse to ever accept mediocrity in your skin, then avocado is the food for you.
Thanks for reading!