Best and Worst Foods to Eat for Psoriasis
Psoriasis—a common skin condition characterized by a scaly red rash that's itchy and sometimes painful—is a fickle disease. Its cause isn't fully known, but researchers believe it's related to a problem with your immune system, where your T-cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake, triggering new cell growth when it's not needed. As a result, those new cells pile up on the surface of the skin, causing psoriasis.
Psoriasis Diet Basics
Psoriasis appears in all sorts of ways, from a scaly, white plaque that builds up on the skin, to showing up as abnormal changes in nails, to a type of arthritis that accompanies skin or nail psoriasis. It's a chronic condition, so there's no getting rid of it for good. And it comes and goes, sometimes seemingly at random. That can make it a hugely frustrating condition to treat, as you never know when or how badly it might rear its ugly head.
The basics of a diet for psoriasis aren't the same for everyone. That said, psoriasis is linked with some known triggers. And while no one wants to hear that their favorite food might cause a flare-up, it's also helpful to feel like you can exert some control over your condition via what you put on your plate. Foods related to inflammation can be common triggers for many. Here are some foods to avoid as well as foods to include on a psoriasis diet.
Pictured recipe: Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Almonds & Halloumi
Foods to Avoid with Psoriasis
We'll start with the bad news first: although the research isn't conclusive about whether alcohol consumption exacerbates psoriasis, alcohol may disrupt your immune system, and thus, trigger a flare-up—particularly if you're older and have been dealing with psoriasis for a long time. Go easy on alcohol, and particularly consider staying away from beer, as the grains and starches it's made with may be a factor in psoriasis: light beers (made with less starch), wine and liquor don't show this association.
The link between beer and a psoriasis flare-up is gluten. Non-light beer is typically made using fermented barley or other starches, which contain gluten. As you may already know, celiac disease—like psoriasis—is also an autoimmune response. So it makes sense that people with psoriasis may also have gluten sensitivity, and could benefit from cutting wheat, rye, barley, malt and other gluten-containing foods from their diets. Sounds grim, but the research suggests that following a gluten-free diet can really help avoid a run-in with your psoriasis.
The name alone sounds ominous, and members of the family of plants known as "nightshades" will indeed throw shade on your psoriasis health. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos and tobacco (more on that later) are all members of the nightshade family—and unfortunately, all are linked to psoriasis flare-ups. Researchers think that nightshades may aggravate the intestinal lining and exacerbate immune-related disorders (read more about nightshades and your health).
Read More: 10 Ways to Reduce Inflammation
This is kind of a no-brainer. Tobacco has been linked to many unfavorable health outcomes, and yes—because it's a member of the nightshade family, it's also linked with psoriasis.
You saw that one coming, right? Sad, but true. Like tobacco, sugar doesn't have a great reputation in the nutrition world, and junk foods are strongly associated with psoriasis episodes. According to research published in Dermatologic Therapy, 50% of trial participants reported a positive skin response when they cut out junk foods like candy, pastries, chocolate, sweets—and also french fries and potato chips (remember: potatoes are nightshades).
Technically, it's "white flour products" that are the culprits here. But since most highly processed foods (such as cookies, crackers and convenience foods) include white flour—and often, other triggers like sugar and of course, gluten—it's often easiest to just swear off of them altogether. Plus, there's a connection between obesity and psoriasis, so if skipping the processed foods (which are often high in low-quality calories) leads to a lower BMI, it's a win-win for your health and your psoriasis.
Foods That You Should Eat for Psoriasis
Pictured recipe: Sautéed Broccoli with Peanut Sauce
Now we've gotten the bad news over with, it's time to concentrate on what you can and should eat to help control psoriasis. We've identified a few specific foods below, but in general, your best bet is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet (which looks an awful lot like one of the world's healthiest diets—the Mediterranean diet.)
Fruits and Vegetables
Antioxidants are key to anti-inflammatory eating, as they protect your cells from the effects of free radicals and reduce the oxidative stress that causes inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, have complex carbohydrates with high fiber content (good for the gut microbiome!) and contain lots of good-for-you vitamins and nutrients to keep inflammation down and psoriasis in check. Try the following:
- Berries and grapes, which contain antioxidants called anthocyanins that reduce inflammation. Grapes also contain a compound called resveratrol, which can reduce inflammation.
- Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Broccoli, in particular, is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
- Tart cherries, which have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties (and also may reduce systolic blood pressure and LDL cholesterol). Win-win!
Pictured Recipe: Turmeric Latte
Turmeric is the sunshine-hued spice that gives curry its vibrant color. It has a pungent, earthy flavor that most people either love or hate—and a polyphenol called curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Add turmeric to your morning eggs, blend it into hummus, drink it in tea, whip it into a smoothie or sprinkle it over roasted veggies (add black pepper to increase absorption). And if you truly can't stand the taste, you can always pop a curcumin supplement.
Fatty Fish and Heart-Healthy Oils
Pictured Recipe: Lemon-Herb Salmon with Caponata & Farro
Fish like salmon, lake trout, mackerel, tuna, cod and sardines are high in good-for-you fats called omega-3s. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep psoriasis in check. Aim for two servings of fish per week (a serving is 3.5 ounces cooked, or 1/3 cup flaked) for anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as a host of other heart-healthy benefits. Likewise, you can obtain similar benefits from heart-healthy oils, including olive oil and coconut oil.
Feeling better about your options now? Sure, there are a few things to stay away from, if you're trying to keep your psoriasis in check. But there are also plenty of delicious things you can and should eat—so take this as a challenge to eat delicious, healthy foods that make you feel good and keep the psoriasis at bay.