If you're one of the 40 million to 50 million Americans who have acne, it's tempting to think there's a single food that can clear your complexion. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and simply eating apples won't treat acne. Your dietary choices can affect acne, however, and apples have some nutritional properties that make them a good fit in an acne-fighting diet.
Focus on the Big Picture
When it comes to diet and acne, your overall diet has a greater effect than any single food. A study published in the March 2014 issue of the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" followed young adults' diets over five months to look for connections between dietary habits and acne. The study found that test subjects with moderate or severe acne ate more sugar, dairy and saturated and trans fats than those with mild acne. They also followed a higher glycemic index diet -- one with a more pronounced effect on blood sugar -- than those with mild acne. Overall, the research authors concluded that certain dietary habits might worsen acne.
Apples: A Low-GI Option
Apples' low glycemic index makes them a welcome addition to a low-GI -- and therefore, more skin-friendly -- diet. The glycemic index indicates how a food affects your blood sugar. High-GI foods release sugar into your bloodstream quickly, causing unpleasant sugar spikes and crashes. Lower-GI foods release sugar into your bloodstream slowly, so they're better for controlling your blood sugar level -- and potentially, for controlling acne, according to "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" study. With a GI of 39, apples fit comfortably into the "low glycemic index" category.
Other Skin Benefits
Apples also serve as a source of vitamin C. While vitamin C from your diet doesn't directly fight acne, it does play an important role in your skin's health. It acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing irritating chemicals called free radicals, which could otherwise boost inflammation in your skin. It protects your skin from sun-induced DNA damage and may help maintain your skin's lipid barrier. Not getting enough vitamin C might also affect your skin's ability to heal wounds, which can affect how your skin recovers from acne. A large apple offers 10 milligrams of skin-friendly vitamin C, which translates to roughly 13 percent and 11 percent of the daily needs for women and men, respectively.
Using Apples to Help Acne
Apples might help fight your acne if you're eating them in place of potential acne triggers such as sugar or unhealthy fats. Carry an apple around in your bag throughout the day in case of unexpected hunger pangs, and you won't find yourself chowing down on chocolate or chips from a vending machine. Use applesauce in your baking to reduce the amount of oil and sugar needed -- just make sure you reach for unsweetened applesauce that doesn't contain added sugar. Use finely chopped apple or homemade applesauce to lend natural sweetness to oatmeal, so you won't go for higher-GI toppings like brown sugar.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Apples, Raw, With Skin
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Relationships of Self-Reported Dietary Factors and Perceived Acne Severity in a Cohort of New York Young Adults.
- Harvard Medical School: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- Linus Pauling Institute: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C and Skin Health
- American Academy of Dermatology: Acne