Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Food culture loves creating dietary demons, often painting fats, sugar and carbohydrates as villains. If you want glowing skin, then carbohydrates are key – especially when they are cooled, controlled and high in fibre.
The largest organ of the human immune system is our skin – it’s a barrier to pathogens – and our gut microbiome plays a major role in our overall immune response too. Forget what you already know about bread, rice and potatoes, and let me explain why carbohydrates must be unmasked as dietary enemies to help us all have the nutritional support we need for great skin at any age. The good news is you can enjoy the three most vilified carbs – bread, potato and rice – to help your skin and microbiome flourish.
Bread: keep it seedy
Bread gets a pretty bad rap – sandwiches have become totally faux pas among those trying to lose weight. Wholegrain and sourdough breads are both great carbohydrate options to consider for lunch, as they’re higher in fibre and have a lower glycaemic index (GI) than their standard white counterparts. Low GI carbs are great for ensuring your blood sugar levels don’t spike, which can contribute to many skin problems. Breads made with refined white flour, such as standard sandwich loaf, are higher GI with “fancy” breads like Turkish bread and focaccia providing almost double the carbs of their wholemeal counterparts.
My take: There’s no reason not to enjoy healthier breads as part of a balanced meal with quality protein like eggs – have a think about why you think they’re unhealthy. Are you lathering your toast with butter or your sandwich with mayo?
Potato: make it cooled
If bread is seen (wrongly) as faux pas, then potato is a close friend. Don’t get me wrong – you won’t see me recommending French fries or hash browns, but potatoes cooked in a healthy way are actually a powerhouse food for your gut microbiome and to support skin health. Roasted or boiled potatoes are a great way to round out a meal, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; cooked and cooled potatoes are the best way to enjoy potatoes.
Cooling potatoes changes the shape of the starch to make it delectable for our gut microbiome, promoting butyrate production which lowers inflammation that’s associated with skin conditions like psoriasis, rosacea and acne. There are lots of ways to enjoy cooled potatoes in my book The Australian Healthy Skin Diet – think my tuna niçoise salad on page 143, or my salmon and potato salad with sauerkraut on page 157. It’s also a good excuse to enjoy leftover potatoes!
My take: Enjoy potatoes but consider the way you cook them – they can be a powerhouse gut food when cooked in the right way.
Rice: watch the portion
Rice is a staple food of many cuisines worldwide, however is often demonised for it’s high carb content and high GI. Brown rice still has a moderate GI, however it does pack more of a fibre punch to keep our gut bugs happy. With rice, I recommend keeping a close eye on portions as it can be hard to estimate how much you’re eating – it’s not as nicely portioned out as a slice of bread or a potato. I recommend no more than a quarter of a cup in one serve. I love using brown rice as a base for some of my favourite meals in the book – think my Korean beef bibimbap on page 189, or one of the poke bowls. Other rice varieties like Basmati or even wild rice and red or black rice are also lower GI, but tend to be lacking in fibre.
My take: Enjoy brown rice (or other colourful varieties like black rice) or other low-GI rice varieties, but keep an eye on portions as it can be easy to blow out.