Last Updated on August 7th, 2019
The causes of acne have always been a topic of heated debate among its victims, as well as among dermatologists and researchers. Some people claim that acne is simply caused by bad genes. Others posit that it is our lifestyle choices that define whether or not we will become victims of recurring breakouts. One of the main factors that proponents of this theory blame is the diet we adopt in our everyday life.
Because most of the scientific research on acne is based on the development of new medical solutions, there are not many studies which test the effects of natural products on our skin. Therefore, there is not much proof of which natural products can actually cause you pimples.
Still, it is not difficult to draw your own conclusions on this issue. For instance, if you have even basic knowledge of acne, it would be self-explanatory that a carbohydrate and sugar-based diet would result in more frequent breakouts. You would thus already know to avoid excessive indulgence in things like pasta, candy, bottled fruit juice, soft drinks, etc. However, there is one type of food which you might not necessarily expect to be a culprit in this regard and that is the sunflower seed1.
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Indeed, various nuts have been proven to be detrimental to your skin’s health. For instance, nuts’ excessive protein content is often singled out as damaging to your complexion. On the other hand, other nuts have also been praised for providing you with certain essential ingredients like selenium and zinc. Nevertheless, sunflower seeds, in particular, rarely cause such a debate. Indeed, on the surface it would seem that these seeds would be a very healthy snack for you and your body. So, what could go wrong?
The truth is that sunflower seeds are full of fats. And we are not only talking about the good kind of fats, either. While seeds from, say, pumpkins carry an abundance of beneficial amino acids and zinc, they also have some fat – about 20 grams per 50 grams of pumpkin seeds, only half of them being omega-6 fatty acids. For that reason, you would want to eat pumpkin seeds with measure. In contrast, sunflower seeds carry an enormous amount of fat in the form of omega-6 fatty acids. Only 50 grams of these seeds bring you a whopping 25 grams of fat, most of it being of the omega-6 variety!
By now you may be wondering what’s so bad about the omega-6 kind of acids. Unfortunately, this kind of linoleic acid encourages inflammation, especially when it is not consumed in the appropriate ratio in respect to its counterpart – the omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-6 fatty acids can cause you acne2, but also other physical problems such as joint pain and even concentration problems. You may have been snacking on sunflower seeds, thinking they are at the top of the healthy food list – especially if you are a vegan. After reading this, we advise you to look for your amino acids in different kinds of nuts, or elsewhere, altogether!
This tasty little snack can cause you even more unexpected harm. Although they certainly don’t look like it, these seeds contain lectins – toxins which mess with your digestive system, as well as – you guessed it – with your skin. Not only do these toxins affect your complexion immediately after consumption, but they can also trigger more severe skin reactions as they build up in your system. This means that even if you are unable to stop yourself from having a few sunflower seeds every now and then, make sure that you do not have them too often. If this wasn’t enough, sunflower seeds also contain other kinds of toxins3, too, such as oxalates and mycotoxins in the form of aflatoxins. How can all these damaging ingredients be contained in a single, tiny seed, we wonder!
Aflatoxins result from a certain kind of mold in store-bought seeds, which develops due to inadequate conditions such as a moist environment. The problem with these toxins is that they intensify your acne. Basically, they suck out your antioxidants, and thus, trigger further irritation for you. They are also found in other commercially-produced foods like chocolate, coffee and other types of nuts. In fact, more than half of the seeds that come from certain third-world countries like Tanzania turned out to contain hefty amounts of aflatoxins (more than ten percent of which contained intolerably high amounts).
With all these toxic components within sunflower seeds, it comes as no surprise that some people are even allergic to the seeds. It is hence better to avoid them at all costs – whether or not you suffer from acne.
Although there aren’t tons of experiments done on the effect of sunflower seeds on human skin, we present you with a small collection of such research. For instance, the global acne grading score concluded that sunflower seeds can indeed cause recurring pimples. Specifically, the long-lasting effects of these seeds were tested and it turned out that almost 90 percent of the test subjects’ experienced higher levels of acne than usual, sometimes after intensively consuming sunflower seeds.
Although sunflower seed oil’s linoleic acid’s inflammation-fighting properties4 had been found to be beneficial when used as a topical remedy, the results of ingesting the seeds were quite different. A two-week 2014 experiment found that sunflower seed consumption had a positive correlation with acne.
The test subjects amounted to 50 young persons, about 70 of which were women. They were divided into two segments – the first one cut out sunflower seeds from their diet and the second one consumed 25 grams of them every single day. As it was expected, the control group’s condition remained the same. However, the other half of the test subjects began experiencing much more severe breakouts. Their acne soared by 24.2 points on the acne severity index scale. The hike in the control group was only by 4.1 points.
The seeds were specifically found to exasperate the breakouts of people with acne vulgaris. People with nodules experienced half as much acne as they did before consuming seeds. Subjects also developed nearly twenty percent more blackheads and whiteheads. Pustules were increased by sixty percent, and papules were increased by almost seventy percent! If this data doesn’t scare you away from sunflower seeds, we don’t know what will.
After all, experts do promote the essential oil from these seeds, so how is it possible that everything inside of them is so detrimental to skin health? Indeed, sunflower seeds provide you with amino acids, about 400 milligrams of lysine and with 620 milligrams of the extremely helpful substance called glycine, per each 50 grams of seeds that you consume. Glycine is an excellent aide against breakouts5, as it stimulates your skin’s manufacturing of collagen6. It also encourages your body’s glutathione production. The seeds of sunflowers are less potent than the seeds of pumpkins in this respect, but still provide ample resources of skin-aiding elements.
Sunflower seeds are generally excellent providers of antioxidants7. Moreover, they also carry various other components which can improve your complexion. Their zinc is at more than 30 percent of your recommended daily dosage, and their selenium is at almost 80 percent of it. The skin vitamin, vitamin E comes at you at almost 70 percent more than your recommended daily dosage – something that pumpkin seeds could never provide you with! Additionally, sunflower seeds give you almost your entire daily dosage of magnesium.
If all of this wasn’t enough, sunflower seeds make it really easy for your body to absorb these healthy nutrients. This is because their levels of phytic acid, which binds minerals together, is at 900-1800 milligrams per a tiny portion (still less than pumpkin seeds). This gives you easy access to the helpful minerals.
Taking all of these benefits into consideration, why is that we consider sunflower seeds so bad for skin? Well, first of all, let us not forget the ginormous amounts of omega-6 fatty acids that they bring to the table. Moreover, in order to reap the goods of these seeds, you would have to be consuming them on a really regular basis. That is the only way to efficiently increase your selenium and vitamin E intake. Unfortunately, it is not advisable to consistently consume sunflower seeds, due to the previously outlined harm they can bring to your complexion. Essentially, you are quite unable to enjoy these seeds’ benefits because of their drawbacks. We shall call this the sunflower paradox.
If it feels disappointing that you will not be able to bask in the benefits of sunflower seeds, we have good news for you. All of the helpful ingredients of these seeds can easily be found in other products. If nuts are your thing, opt for some Brazil nuts for a selenium boost8, or for a handful of almonds for some extra vitamin E. Do not worry at all about missing out on any antioxidants – most vegetables and fruits provide you with excellent amounts of these. On the other hand, if you happen to really be craving seeds, do choose the pumpkin variety. Remember, they also bestow you with a lot more amino acids.
If you love sunflower seeds, we feel your pain. Indeed, there may be some anti-inflammation components in them that have simply not been found yet. For now, avoid these seeds if you want to maintain a clear complexion. Apparently, sunflower seeds are hiding plenty of dirty little secrets under their healthy appearance!
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