soy and acne: why we avoid this food for clear skin

here at skinSALVATION, we encourage our clients to adopt several healthy dietary changes, one of the most important being the avoidance of soy products. i know, i know – isn’t soy supposed to be a healthy wonder food, a complete protein dream? as all skinSALVATION clients learn, soy may not be as healthy for clear skin as we’ve always thought. this seemingly harmless legume may be reeking havoc on your endocrine, digestive and detox systems, contributing to painful acne in the process.

from an sS perspective, here are the top three reasons to avoid soy, especially if you are acne-prone:

1. soy can alter hormonal balance

soy contains phytoestrogens, or plant constituents that are structurally similar to the estrogen that we produce in our bodies.1 phytoestrogenic plants can affect our own hormones by altering the levels of estrogen in our bodies relative to other sex hormones.2 these phytoestrogens replace our biologically-produced estrogen in our cell receptors, disrupting the body’s hormonal balance and often resulting in a decrease in estrogen production and an increase in androgens.3 elevated androgens, specifically dht, can greatly impact the formation of acne by causing our glands to produce more oil. but let’s step back for one moment and talk about the liver. we all know that the liver’s primary function in the body is detoxification. our livers constantly work to remove not only toxins from our bloodstreams, but also excess hormones. estrogen happens to be the primary hormone that needs to be detoxed from our bodies, partially due to the nearly ubiquitous presence of xenoestrogens (also known as endocrine disrupters) in plastics, beauty products and in harsh household cleaners.4 if we bombard our bodies with this extra estrogen from plants and from our environments, our livers become taxed and are unable to perform their daily detox duties. and if the liver cannot perform its detoxing duties, it relies on other organs, like the skin, to pick up the slack. this can result in hormonal acne breakouts. additionally, these phytoestrogen-induced hormonal fluctuations can be especially detrimental for women dealing with pcos, infertility and other endocrine issues.5,6

2. soy inhibits the absorption of vitamins, minerals and protein

another major contributor to acne is inadequate nutrient absorption, either due to a poor diet or due to an impaired ability to absorb nutrients from foods as they move through the digestive tract. soy is a member of the legume family, along with other beans, chickpeas and peanuts. legumes, like nuts and seeds, are designed to survive the digestive systems of whichever creatures consume them so that they can reproduce successfully.7 in order to ensure their survival, legumes emit protective substances called lectins, which are associated with increased intestinal permeability and with inflammation of the gut.8,9 soybeans also contain phytic acid, which binds to vitamins and minerals like calcium and zinc, actively preventing their absorption.10 zinc, in particular, is crucial for keeping acne at bay because it helps reduce systemic inflammation and it can help lower dht levels.11 and even though soy is technically a complete protein, it is rife with protease inhibitors, which interfere with the digestion of protein.12 so put down that soy cappuccino – we all know about the anti-nutrient powers of coffee, after all – and start sipping a coconut milk matcha latte instead!

3. soy can be inflammatory

while it may be tempting to argue that cultures all over the world have been consuming soy for centuries to no detriment, we must keep in mind the ways in which soy crops have changed over time and in alignment with a western agricultural model. in traditional japanese cultures, soy was used only in small amounts at meals and was often fermented before consumption, allowing for easier digestion and for fewer hormonal impacts.13 soy is now rarely fermented and constitutes a relatively large percentage of western diets in the form of fillers in processed foods (soy lecithin, soybean oil, soy protein, etc). jumping from 8% gmo in 1997 to 94% gmo in 2014, soy is the most frequently genetically-modified crop in the united states today and it usually comes packed with a host of endocrine-disrupting pesticides.14 additionally, soybean oil is one of the most inflammatory omega-6 oils – the oil is extracted from the soybean using hexane, a solvent that has been characterized by the CDC as a neurotoxin.15 these chemicals, along with the indigestibility of legumes, elevate our internal inflammation levels, exacerbating acne breakouts.

looking for some alternatives to soy? here are some essential sS tips:

  • choose other legumes or green peas over soybeans or edamame
  • switch out that soy sauce (yes, including bragg’s) for coconut aminos by coconut secretbig tree farms or trader joe’s.
  • ditch the soy milk and start experimenting with rice, oat or nut milks. they’re delicious and creamy and you can even save money by making your own! califia farms and new barn are great options.
  • opt for products that use sunflower lecithin over soy lecithin – become a master label-reader!
  • if you’re vegetarian and need the protein, try pea protein, cheeses made from nuts, and black bean burgers with quinoa for the protein boost. check out kite hill nut cheese in the refrigerator section of your local natural foods store.

footnotes

1. ieh. (2000) phytoestrogens in the human diet (web report w3), leicester, uk, institute for environment and health. posted october 2000.
2. davis, s.r., et al. (1999) phytoestrogens in health and disease. recent progress in hormone research. 54:185-211.
3. nagata, c., et al. (1998) effect of soymilk consumption on serum estrogen concentrations in premenopausal japanese women. journal of the national cancer institute. 1998; 90:1830–1835.
4. mccormick, k. (2017) the liver’s role in hormone balance. connections: an educational resource of women’s international pharmacy.
5. patisaul, h.b., et al. (2014) soy but not bisphenol a (bpa) induces hallmarks of polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos) and related metabolic co-morbidities in rats. reproductive toxicology. 2014 nov; 49:209-18.
6. chandrareddy, a., et al. (2008) adverse effects of phytoestrogens on reproductive health: a report of three cases. complementary therapies in clinical practice. 2008; 14:132–135.
7. franco, l. & genovese, m.i. (2002) nutritional significance of lectins and enzyme inhibitors from legumes. journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 50 (22): 6592–6598.
8. puszatai, a. (1988) biological effects of dietary lectins. recent advances of research of antinutritional factors of legume seeds. 17-29.
9. chen, a. & donovan, s. (2004) genistein at a concentration present in soy infant formula inhibits caco-2bbe cell proliferation by causing g2/m cell cycle arrest. the journal of nutrition. 134 (6): 1303-1308.
10. 
sandberg, a.s. (2002) bioavailability of minerals in legumes. british journal of nutrition. 2002 cec; 88 suppl 3:s281-5.
11. stamatiadis, d., et al. (1988) inhibition of 5 alpha-reductase activity in human skin by zinc and azelaic acid. british journal of dermatology. 1988 nov; 119(5):627-32.
12. american nutrition association. (2015) review: the whole soy story. 38(2).
13. kresser, c. (2011) 9 steps to perfect health – #1: don’t eat toxins. posted 28 january 2011.
14. usda. (2016) recent trends in ge adoption. economic research service. 
15. centers for disease control and prevention. (2017) organic solvents. national institute for occupational safety and health.

our favorite acne-safe restaurants in san francisco + the surrounding bay area

at skinSALVATION, we love to eat.

we love to grocery shop, cook meals at home and enjoy meals that are prepared for us by loved ones. we love to go to the neighborhood restaurants where they know us by name, and join year-long waitlists to have fine dining experiences. we love eating food that fuels our bodies and teaching our clients how to choose foods that will fuel theirs.

we consider cooking at home to be the most acne-safe option because it means that you have complete control of what goes into your food. often times when you eat out, there is hidden dairy, soy and cloggy cooking oils in dishes that you wouldn’t expect.

however, we recognize that we live in a mecca of some of the world’s most wonderful restaurants, so we’ve begun a list of some of our personal favorite places to eat acne-safe food. this list will be updated as we remember gems that we’ve experienced before and as we explore new restaurants.

note: not everything on these restaurant’s menus is acne-safe. make informed eating decisions by asking your server if dishes contain dairy or soy. they are happy to tell you and may be able to make substitutions to accommodate you.

pro tip: when a friend or a date asks you out to dinner, offer to cook for them or suggest a restaurant from this list where you know you’ll be able to find something to eat that fits your dietary restrictions. you can check out the menus online ahead of time and even call to ask about ingredients so that you already know what you’re going to order before you get there.

 

DINING OUT FOR DINNER IN SAN FRANCISCO

bar agricole has a seasonally based menu chock full of locally grown produce and sustainable meat options. all of their dishes can be made dairy + soy free and the “farm-to-table” restaurant just received another 3-star rating from michael bauer (esteemed food and drink writer for the sf chronicle for over 28 years!). be sure to try a handcrafted cocktail and the $1 pork sausages, served with gut-loving sauerkraut, during their daily happy hour from 5pm to 6pm.

trou normand is the sister restaurant of bar agricole and their made-in-house charcuterie selections are among the best the city has to offer! the protein-heavy menu favors us carnivores, but the citrus salad around this time of year is delicious and vegan, dairy + soy-free.

minas brazilian hosted the skinSALVATION team for our new years dinner and we pretty much ordered one of everything on the menu. they were very accommodating about making dishes dairy, soy and gluten-free for us.

llimon rotisserie has amazing roast chicken, sides + ceviche that are dairy + soy-free. they do have a few dishes on the menu that include soy sauce as indicated on their menu.

tin is a family-run restaurant that serves traditional vietnamese fare. we love to start with the fresh spring rolls, sans peanut dipping sauce, and follow it up with a steaming bowl of phō. perfect for these gloomy san francisco days we’ve been having!

turtle tower speaking of phō, turtle tower is know for this broth based soup, boasting some of the best freshly-made noodles. be sure to ask if they add soy sauce to any of the dishes that you order and if so, ask them to hold it.

*tip: bring your own bottle of coconut aminos in your bag when you dine at asian restaurants. you can add your own instead of soy sauce!

 

DINE IN OR TAKE OUT FOR LUNCH + DINNER IN SAN FRANCISCO

la taza has a huge menu including many great salads, which you can order without cheese. the kale con quinoa with steak is a staff favorite!

mateo’s taqueria is an upscale taqueria located downstairs from skinSALVATION. we love that they use organic ingredients and will make anything without cheese or crema, just ask for, “no dairy.”

staff favorites: guacamole (ask for no cheese!) + horchata made with almond milk. although horchata is a sweet cinnamon rice milk, it’s often mixed with dairy milk to make it creamy.

mau has delicious + nourishing broth as the base of many of their dishes. their staff is very knowledgable and can tell you if any of the dishes contain soy (a hard feat in many asian restaurants).

gracias madre takes a vegan approach to traditional mexican dishes. we LOVE that they use cashew cheese in their dishes, making them dairy AND soy-free.

burma love is a great burmese restaurant in the mission. some of their dishes contain soy so be sure to ask before ordering. staff favorite is their tea leaf salad (ask them to hold the peanuts to keep it acne-safe).

 

EAT IN THE EAST BAY

teni east kitchen makes an amazing burmese chickpea tofu for those of you who are missing the traditional soy dish.

burma superstar is the east bay mama restaurant of burma love. same rules apply.

mission heirloom is a beautiful paleo restaurant for meals and treats. their brazilian waffles (with cheddar cheese) and their coffee drinks are the only items on the menu to steer clear of. many of their dishes contain coconut oil, which can be problematic for many of us who are acne-prone but is okay in small amounts.

enssaro ethiopian is gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free and you get to eat it with your hands! the meat sampler and veggies sampler are both amazing.

 

DELIVERY

darn good food

mealmade delivers delicious paleo meals for lunch and dinner in san francisco. a staff favorite is their orange chicken with cauliflower rice.

methodology is a subscription based paleo meal delivery service. their delicious + healthy meals are perfect for people who don’t have time to meal prep acne-safe food for the week. use promo code SKINSALVATION to get 10% off of your first week.

sprig lists all of their ingredients and nutrition information on the website + app so you can check if dishes contain dairy or soy before ordering.

munchery allows you to add filters for things like dairy, gluten and eggs. you have to double check ingredient listings to be sure that there’s no soy added.

good eggs delivers organic groceries, prepared meals and snacks from stores across the bay area.

instacart delivers groceries, prepared meals and snacks from stores in your area like whole foods, bi-rite, and rainbow grocery.

postmates delivers food from a TON of restaurants in the bay area. some of our favs are:

  • roam artisan burgers, which can be ordered without dairy, and even without a bun!
  • pica pica maize kitchen, which makes gluten-free peruvian style arepas. be sure to ask for yours without cheese!
  • project juice, which has a ton of great soy-free and dairy-free prepared meals. their coconut crepes with cashew cheese + blueberries are a staff fav!

 

SWEETS + TREATS 

wholesome bakery makes cookies + cupcakes free from the top allergens including: dairy, soy, gluten, and eggs. their thin mint cookie sandwiches are a staff fav!

dandelion chocolate makes beautiful dairy-free and soy-free chocolate.

sidewalk juice makes great veggie juices + smoothies. some of their smoothies contain dairy, soy milk or sherbet (super high in sugar!) but they will gladly sub almond milk for you! staff favs are the green energy juice (ask for it without apple + add extra lemon if you’re on candida cleanse!) and the blueberry almond smoothie (ask them to leave out the fro-yo).

boba guys will make any of their delicious boba drinks with almond milk instead of dairy!

 

 

 

 

this article was written for you by liesse + chelsee.

acne-safe ranch dressing

here’s a recipe that we found for acne-safe ranch dressing. check out the video below of chelsee whipping it together!

ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream, refrigerated overnight (do not use light coconut milk)
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1½ tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1½ tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon sea salt
black pepper, to taste

instructions
1. open the can of coconut milk or coconut cream. scoop the coconut cream off the top of the can and add it to a large bowl, leaving the coconut water within the can.
2. add 4 tablespoons of the coconut water into the coconut cream and whisk until smooth (reserve the leftover coconut water, as you may need to whisk in an extra tablespoon or two after refrigerating your dressing depending on your desired thickness).
3. add in the shallots, garlic, apple cider vinegar, chives, parsley, basil, dill, sea salt, and black pepper. stir to combine and refrigerate dressing for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld together.
4. enjoy this dressing over your favorite salads or dip your favorite vegetables into it!

cocktails 101: for the acne-safe diet

when living the acne-safe lifestyle and adhering to the acne-safe diet, limiting your sugar intake is key! sugar, even in its simplest form, can cause inflammation. processed sugars like white bread, pasta and common table sugar can be some of the biggest culprits. here is a good article that breaks down to effects of sugar on the body.

so you’ve already vowed to leave the sugar out of your black tea every morning and cut down your late night pantry raid for dark chocolate to one night a week (or two)! however, there might be one thing you’ve yet to consider: those pitchers of margaritas, glasses of sangria and delicious summer shandy’s!

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while alcohol itself is made through the process of distilling sugar, there is no actual sugar left in the spirits once they have been distilled. FUN FACT: you can make alcohol out of ANYTHING that contains sugar, like this carrot eau de vie which would make for a deliciously vegetal bloody mary! so as long as the producer hasn’t added any sugar after distillation to reach a desired taste or color, drinking spirits straight is the best way to avoid the high sugar intake. however, the cocktail trend is on the rise and there are so many awesome cocktail-driven bars and restaurants, especially here in san francisco.  we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to give up a friday night out with friends for healthy skin!

there are plenty of delicious cocktail recipes that call for little to no sugar at all! even the notoriously sweet, and beloved, tiki drinks can be made to fit in with the acne-safe diet. you can still get the toy umbrella without the break out!

here are the most important things to keep in mind before you actually start drinking:

  1. EAT! eating before you drink is so good (and mandatory) for so many reasons. and we mean eat a MEAL, not snacks. chips and salsa for dinner before a night of scorpion bowls is not going to cut it, trust. the more protein and carbs you have in your belly, the less chances of you needing to have a friend hold your hair back while you puke up the whole night. kim’s favorite is to eat and drink at the same time at the many fabulous restaurant bars in the city – what other way is best than to socialize while sitting, drinking and eating delicious food at the same time?!
  2. HYDRATE. you definitely want to plan ahead and start drinking lots of water the day of (as well as during and the day after) drinking. the more hydrated you are, the less hungover (and sick + inflamed) you will be overall.
  3. REST. it’s important that you set your body up the best you can to get ready to receive the abuse that’s about to ensue (sounds rash, but it’s the truth). try to rest up the several nights prior to (and after) your night out. if you party too many nights in a row, you’ll likely get rundown, and combined with the stresses of everyday life (and the cold weather in winter! or SF summers for that matter), will almost guarantee a cold – and having to call in sick-to-work days.
  4. PLAN. like how we address your acne in-clinic, plan holistically. think about how many drinks you want to max out at (or how much money you want to spend) to avoid drinking too much. decide what drink of choice you’ll go with and stick to, to avoid mixing alcohols = nausea. and if you are going to go home with someone you meet at the bar, try and have in your bag (or car) at the very least, travel sizes of your acne-safe face wash and moisturizer so you can do your walk of shame with a clean face (sans slept-in-makeup-face) the morning after. and of course, your designated driver situation so that, you know, you arrive alive!

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WHEN MAKING COCKTAILS AT HOME:

lots of classical cocktail recipes call for simple syrup, a solution of sugar and water, as the primary sweetening agent. when making cocktails or other non-alcoholic drinks at home, try making your own simple syrup using stevia or coconut sugar instead of refined sugar! agave syrup can also be a good alternative to sugar due to it’s slightly lower glycemic index. you can also try cutting the simple syrup by 1/3 or 1/2, in most recipes it should work out ok.

here are some of our favorite at-home cocktail recipes that call for little to no sugar!

– a real homemade piña colada (not from a mixer that comes in a plastic bottle) either frozen or served over crushed ice, is sure to transport you straight to the island of puerto rico (even if it’s just in your head!)

the skinny margarita made with un-aged tequila (reposado and añejo tequila may have sugar added in the form of caramel coloring so always be sure to check the labels! FYI, this is common in whiskey as well) and this organic apple cider vinegar limeade drink with 0 grams of sugar makes for a deliciously tart margarita that won’t throw off your diet!

– this kombucha “moscow mule” has only 1g of sugar in each drink, PLUS tons of gut-healthy probiotics, so you can afford to have more than just one, or two, or..

– you can also keep it suuuper simple by mixing 1 part spirit and 2 parts sparkling water (plain a lá soda stream, perrier, etc or la croix!), with a squeeze of lemon or lime

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WHEN ENJOYING COCKTAILS AT A BAR OR RESTAURANT:

EAT. and DRINK WATER. (see above).

sugary ingredients, like juice and flavored syrups, can be over-used in some bars to appeal to the masses. additionally, these ingredients are more than likely masking a cut-rate spirit (aka well spirits, aka almost always the lowest quality stuff) that may be economic, but not very nice to sip on when served “neat.” (on their own, without ice or mixers),

– to avoid this, opt for the simpler cocktails on the menu, i.e. the ones without a million ingredients that are certain to have less sugar!

– always ask if the bar carries agave syrup and can substitute it for any use of simple syrup or raw sugar in your preferred cocktail. you can always ask if they can just use half the sugar, or make it less sweet.

– and when all else fails, beer is almost always the safest bet, sure to have less than a few grams of sugar in each serving!

whereEVER and whenEVER you are consuming alcohol:

it is always important to stay hydrated, but even more so when consuming alcoholic beverages! your skin, and tomorrow morning ‘you,’ will thank you for it. a good rule of thumb is one glass of water for every alcoholic drink consumed (we call these, “water bumpers.” try mixing it up with sparkling water instead of regular tap water, or soda water with a dash of bitters and lime juice. the combination is simple, hydrating and delicious!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

here’s a great post on drinking from nerdfitness.com, with a paleo- and carb-watching edge.

K & L wine merchants in SF and redwood city are kim’s favorite purveyors of high-quality spirits. if you are going to drink poison, you might as well get the good shit!

bar agricole in san francisco is one of, if not the, best place in san francisco to get an education on spirits. any of the bartenders there are super knowledgeable and can help you discover a new spirit, drink or mocktail. and they are CRAZY about quality: for starters, they make their own bitters using local biodynamic grape spirit. (their sister restaurant trou normand is also fab, and are more charcuterie-centric).

the cavalier also in san francisco is a great place to imbibe while downtown. the bartenders are super friendly, and the food is great. the beef tartare is divine, and paleo! (when you eat it with the lettuce cups and skip the toast, that is).

yuzuki restaurant is one of kim’s restaurants that features an awesome selection of sake, which is a japanese spirit derived from rice. owner yuko and sake-sommelier yoshi will teach you the wonders of lovingly hand-crafted sake, which is worlds away from the hot sake that most think of. (if you have no clue about sake, watch the documentary ‘the birth of sake‘ – it’s beautifully filmed and really shows you the hard work that goes into to truly hand-crafted sake).

happy sipping!

choose low-sugar fruits to stay clear

alongside dairy and soy, studies have shown time and again that foods with high-glycemic indexes are some of the biggest acne aggravators. not only are high glycemic foods inflammatory, their sugars feed the candida yeast that so commonly is found in excess in acne sufferers. keeping your sugar intake low will also help regulate energy levels, lowering the stress on your body.

while you may be diligent about avoiding wonder bread and skittles, what you may not realize is that some of your favorite fruits are loaded with sugar. while we would never recommend cutting out fruit entirely – fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber – being cognizant of how much sugar you’re actually eating when you reach for, say, a banana is an important part of living an acne-safe lifestyle.

choosing lower sugar fruits is an easy way to start lowering the glycemic load of your diet. choose a handful of blueberries instead of grapes and you’ve saved yourself over 10 grams of sugar. also, whenever possible, choose fresh fruit over dried fruit. fresh mango is, in itself, a pretty high-sugar fruit with 14.8 grams of sugar per 100 grams, but dried mango has 73 grams – nearly 5 times as much as fresh mango, and about the same amount as skittles.

grams of sugar per 100 grams

for more detailed information on the types of sugar in different fruits, click the chart above!

generally speaking, try and stick to fruit with less than 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams, and do your best to avoid dried fruits. keep in mind, though, as with everything, moderation is key. while it’s probably not a good idea to have a bowl of fruit for breakfast every morning, there are a lot worse things you could have for an afternoon snack than an apple. just do your best to keep your sugar intake (and by extension your glycemic load) as low as possible and your skin will thank you.