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No one knows exactly what causes acne, according to Brown University Health Services 1. But the accepted theory is that oil-clogged pores develop bacteria that lead to the whiteheads and blackheads, commonly called pimples or zits. Experts agree that what causes pimples comes from within, not from what you eat. The idea that foods cause pimples is a myth, though what you eat – including nuts like sunflower seeds – can have an effect on the overall health of your skin.
When you reach puberty, hormones called androgens cause your body to secrete increased amounts of oil. The oil, called sebum, can clog your pores, trapping dirt and dead cells under your skin. This causes bacteria to develop, forming a blister called a comedone. If the blister ruptures, the bacteria can spread to other parts of your skin, which is why acne so often appears in clusters. Sunflower seeds don’t contain human androgens, so eating them can’t stimulate sebum production.
- When you reach puberty, hormones called androgens cause your body to secrete increased amounts of oil.
- The oil, called sebum, can clog your pores, trapping dirt and dead cells under your skin.
Sunflower Seed Facts
Foods That Make Acne Flare Up
Sunflower seeds come from sunflowers. They can be harvested by cutting off and drying the flower head when when most of the petals have fallen and the back of the blossom is dry and brown. Sunflower seeds have black-and-white striped shells, and you can scrape out of the blossom with your fingers. If you like salted sunflower seeds, boil them in their shells in salted water for two hours, let them dry and roast them at 300 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes. Or, soak them overnight in salted water and then roast them. Nothing about this process -- handling, boiling or soaking, roasting or eating them -- will cause you to get pimples.
- Sunflower seeds come from sunflowers.
- Or, soak them overnight in salted water and then roast them.
An unhealthy diet can contribute to acne, but not because dietary oil is somehow clogging your pores. Eating oily, greasy or sugary foods usually means that you aren’t eating the fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and essential fatty acids you need to keep your body functioning efficiently. Sunflower seeds are not overly oily –like oil-roasted peanuts or french fries -- so even if oily foods caused acne, sunflower seeds couldn’t be included in that group.
What Causes Blackheads on My Back?
The Mayo Clinic dismisses the idea the oily foods can cause pimples, but experts there state that evidence may exist that links high glycemic index foods to pimples. High glycemic index foods are those that raise the glucose levels in your blood, causing an insulin spike. This process has been linked to weight gain, but studies linking high glycemic foods like breads and chips to acne are ongoing. Sunflower seeds are low on the glycemic index, so even if this hypothesis is correct, the seeds would net be included in a list of pimple-causing foods.
- The Mayo Clinic dismisses the idea the oily foods can cause pimples, but experts there state that evidence may exist that links high glycemic index foods to pimples.
- This process has been linked to weight gain, but studies linking high glycemic foods like breads and chips to acne are ongoing.
Sunflowers are no more likely to cause pimples than any other food. When you eat them as part of a healthy diet, they provide calcium, phosphorous and potassium, and one-fourth of a cup only contains 200 calories. Sprinkling sunflower seeds over yogurt, tossing them into salads and adding them to tuna or chicken salad adds flavor, crunch and extra nutrients to help keep you – and your skin – healthy and glowing.
Foods That Make Acne Flare Up
What Causes Blackheads on My Back?
Nuts & Acne
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Can Eating Chili Cause Acne?
Oil Bumps on the Face
Blackheads on the Neck
- Brown University Health Education: Acne
- University of Illinois Extension: Harvesting and Handling Sunflowers
- MayoClinic.com: Acne: Causes
- National Lipid Association: Duke Lipid Clinic Low Glycemic Diet Plan
- Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, toasted, without salt. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- Defeat Diabetes Foundation. Nuts and Seeds: Energy and Nutrient-Dense Foods.
- Kaczmarczyk MM, Miller MJ, Freund GG. The health benefits of dietary fiber: Beyond the usual suspects of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Metabolism. 2012;61(8):1058-1066. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2012.01.017
- Yang J, Wang HP, Zhou L, Xu CF. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(48):7378-7383. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i48.7378
- Anderson J, Baird P, Davis RH, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews. 2009;67(4)188-205. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x
- Lattimer JM, Haub MD. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients. 2010;2(12):1266-1289. doi:10.3390/nu2121266
- Kunzmann AT, Coleman HG, Huang WY, Kitahara CM, Cantwell MM, Berndt SI. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(4):881–890. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.113282
- Vitamin E. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated February 28, 2020
- Antioxidants: In Depth. National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Updated November 2013
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Cross Reactivity of Seed Allergens.
- Manatakis DK, Acheimastos V, Antonopoulou MI, Balalis D, Korkolis DP. Gastrointestinal seed bezoars: A systematic review of case reports and case series. Cureus. 2019;11(5):e4686. Published 2019 May 17. doi:10.7759/cureus.4686
- Manne JR, Rangu VM, Motapothula UM, Hall MC. A crunching colon: Rectal bezoar caused by pumpkin seed consumption. Clin Med Res. 2012;10(2):75-7. doi:10.3121/cmr.2011.1016
- Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dry roasted, with salt added. USDA FoodData Central. April 1, 2014.
- National Sunflower Association. Frequently asked questions.
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.