“Eat more fruits and veggies because they are super healthy!”
“You need vitamins from fruits and fiber from veggies!”
As cliches go, it sounds like these plant foods are mandatory in our lives or else we will die, or at least, be in poor health.
However, speaking in the perspective of an eczema sufferer, not all fruits and vegetables are created equal – not all of them are eczema-friendly.
As an eczema sufferer, we need to avoid certain fruits and veggies.
In this article, I’ll list them out and explain why, even though plant foods are nutritious and beneficial in many ways, they are disadvantageous to eczema patients overall.
Just a Quick Note First…
This article is not designed to defame fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are indeed high in different types of nutritional values and are extremely good for the human body, but not every body responds the same way, so each individual needs to adapt to his/her body needs.
When I mean certain plants are NOT friendly to eczema sufferers, it’s just the consequences of eating them to an eczema body overrides the nutritional benefits of eating them.
In essence, we need to find out our body’s list of accepted foods and also, to avoid specifically to eczema-unfriendly plant foods.
Nightshades is the family of foods: potatoes (but not sweet potatoes and I highly encourage you to eat them regularly), tomatoes, tobacco, red and green peppers, paprika, eggplants (these are the common ones).
Nightshades naturally contain a group of chemicals called alkaloids.
“Plants produce alkaloids as a regular part of their biochemical activity, and these alkaloids are primarily designed to help protect the plants from insects that would otherwise eat them.”
And these plant protective mechanisms when ingested just hinder our recovery. For a meaty explanation, read this article.
Some of these foods may be a staple food in your diet, but you can always find substitutes. For nightshades, you can switch for:
- Sweet potatoes (high vitamin A)
- Yam (soluble fiber and good for skin)
- Turnips, radish
- Taro roots
Sarah, who runs Vegetalion, with nightshade allergies, wrote four great articles on finding alternatives:
- how to replace nightshades part 1: eggplant
- how to replace nightshades part 2: peppers
- how to replace nightshades part 3: potatoes
- how to replace nightshades part 4: tomatoes
#2. High Sugar Content Fruits and Veggies
But assuming that you have no intake of any man-made snacks and drinks. It is still possible to consume a lot of sugar with natural foods.
Vegetables are not a problem, the highest sugar content of veggies are potatoes (which you don’t have to care), carrots and beets. But the sugar content of veggies is too low for you to need to reduce intake. So don’t worry too much about this.
The reason why sugar intake needs to be limited is because the more sugar you ingest, the more “food” you give to harmful micro-organisms to feed on in your gut. Yeasts, especially, live on sugar.
As for fruits, avoid these high sugary fruits: tangerines, oranges, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, mangoes, guavas, lychees, figs, bananas and especially dried fruit.
Instead, choose low sugar fruits: lemon, lime, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, papayas, watermelon and most others are okay. Just avoid the ones mentioned above.
For a more details, go check out “Fruits And Vegetable : List of Low and High Sugar Fruit and Vegetable.”
#3. Pesticide-filled Plants (The Dirty Dozen) – Solution: Clean 15
The Dirty Dozen is the official term coined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that refers to the annual top 12 plants contaminated most heavily by pesticides.
Dirty Dozen: top 12 most contaminated plants are:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Sweet bell peppers
New extras: Kale/collard greens and Summer squash.
Clean 15: the top 15 least likely to be contaminated are:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Sweet potatoes
Check out the EWG’s 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ for the official lists.
The reason why I’m telling you this is to warn you that when you consume one of the Dirty Dozen (you don’t have to completely avoid it), you should cook it long enough, soak it in water overnight, or even peel off the skin to eliminate the residue of pesticides, so you don’t end up suffering from the chemicals more than the nutrients you get from the food.
#4. Acidifying Foods
“Acidifying” refer to foods that leave an acidifying effect in the body after digestion, not its pH value upon tasting.
For a person with eczema, we should aim for a 80-20 balance where 80% of our food is alkalizing and 20% acidifying. Essentially, that means mainly veggies and less meats.
You should be aware that many fruits are actually acidifying. Fruits are great but shouldn’t be consumed in mass.
Common strongly acidifying foods include:
- Corn (hence corn syrup, commonly used in commercial snacks as sugar)
- Almost all meat products: fish, chicken, beef, lamb
- White rice and flour products
- Many seeds and nuts
- High sugar content fruits (as mentioned above: oranges, nectarines, kiwis)
- Pickled veggies
Instead, indulge yourself in strongly alkalizing foods:
- Beetroots and beets
- Bean sprouts (but not frozen pea products)
- Homemade broth (the longer it’s cooked, the more nutritious)
- Homemade vegetable juices
- Almost all vegetables: kale, celery, barley grass, spinach
- Apple cider vinegar (tastes sour but has a strong alkalizing effect in the body)
There are other categories: acidifying, alkalizing, strongly alkalizing; this is only a small list.
Read more on Acid-Alkaline Food Charts (also usable as a grocery shopping list).
Solution to Eczema-Unfriendly Fruits and Veggies (here are 10 suggestions)
You now know what NOT to eat, so what should you be eating?
Here are 10 choices that are highly specifically beneficial to improve skin conditions:
- Sweet potatoes (I usually eat several of these every day, it’s rich in vitamin A and are good low-GI carbs)
- Carrots (contains beta-carotene which is good for the skin)
- Beets and beetroot (rich in antioxidants which reduces inflammation)
- Purslane (has the most omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy plants, which is a skin nutrient)
- Pumpkin seeds (rich in zinc, which is needed for skin cell production)
- Apples (high in antioxidants and vitamin C, both essential for good skin)
- Lemons and limes (lemons and limes have a strong alkalizing effect once inside our system)
- Papayas and pawpaws (rich in antioxidants and have papai – a chemical that for skin cell regulation)
- Bananas (rich in potassium – important for balance against sodium)
- Mangoes (has beta-carotene and protects against sun damage)
But there’s one type of plant foods that’s extremely HEALTHY for eczema sufferers…
Fruits are not normally fermented – veggies are the main target e.g. kimchi, pickled veggies, sauerkraut and more. Any plants can be fermented.
Fermented foods are extremely good for people with eczema because fermented foods contain live cultures – beneficial micro-organisms that help digestion and the removal of toxins in the gut, which is crucial for healing up eczema.
I’ve personally made my own kimchi before, and wrote a guide about it, added with other fermentation resources.
Check it out: How To Make Fermented Kimchi (For Fresh Gut Bacteria)
To Eczema Sufferers
In brevity, avoid the four evil categories as mentioned above:
- No nightshades: potatoes, pepper, tomatoes, eggplants.
- No high sugar content foods.
- No pesticide-filled foods. Watch out for The Dirty Dozen and prefer The Clean 15.
- No acidifying goods, or at least limit.
Again, if a particular fruit or vegetable gives you a sensitivity, you know what not to eat. This differs with everyone. For me, I have a sensitivity to papayas, green capsicums and kiwis (as far as I know) – the skin area my mouth turns red.