Less sugar means fewer wrinkles!

If trimming down your waistline, and shaving off body fat effortlessly isnt quite enough of an incentive to reduce your sugar and high GI carbs in the diet, maybe the lure of smoother skin might?

A lifetime of over-indulging and eating too many sweet and sugary foods is, according to many skin experts and dermatologists, a major cause of aging and damaged skin. Eating too much sugar makes the skin dull, and wrinkled! Excess sugar wreaks havoc on many systems of the body such as glucose & insulin metabolism, energy levels, and the production, management and effective burning of fat in the body. Remember that excess sugar = excess insulin production = excess production of fat and cholesterol in the liver. This is not good news from a health, weight or aging perspective!

The process that underlies the negative effects of sugar on cells and tissues is a process called glycation. Sugar in the bloodstream attaches to protein molecules or structures forming new harmful molecules called Advanced Glycosylated End Products known very appropriately as AGEs! The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. As these structures accumulate, the more damage to proteins in the body - the most abundant of which is collagen, as well as elastin. Collagen and elastin are the two main proteins that keep our skin and muscles strong, firm and supple. Too much sugar in the blood that cannot be utilised or metabolised can end up in the skin, muscles and joints! Since collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body, the damage that excess sugar can potentially do to the body (internally and externally), is both extensive, and detrimental.

Visually, we see skin damage as wrinkles and sagging, due to the once springy and strong collagen & elastin fibres becoming dry, brittle and damaged. Of course there are other factors at play in aging, aside from excess sugar, such as sun damage (the leading cause of premature aging), extreme environments, hormonal changes, and other dietary factors such as a lack of protein, antioxidants and essential fats in the diet. However the effects of sugar on the aging process should never be underestimated! Diabetics for example, are known to show faster signs of aging than non-diabetics.

Sugar in the blood reacts with minerals such as iron and copper, creating those pesky little free radicals, which then attack the cell linings and cell structures. It would, therefore, be very wise to look toward consuming good food sources of minerals, which also happen to be great sources of B vitamins and many types of protective antioxidants all necessary nutrients to process sugar. Choose green veggies (spinach, watercress, fennel, kale, cabbage etc.), colourful and low-sugar fruits such as apples, pears, kiwis, berries, peaches, nectarines and plums.

Key strategies to reduce sugar and stay wrinkle-free

  • Avoid sugar in all its forms and guises! The most obvious sources of sugar are sweets, pastries, cakes, biscuits, and canned sugary drinks. Food producers use hefty amounts of sugars in all these types of foods. Be super-vigilant of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) see the note below. 
  • Watch for hidden sugar in food. Processed foods often contain hefty amounts of sugar and appear under many guises such as barley malt, rice syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, and fruit juice concentrate. Any ingredient on a food label list ending in ose is sugar!
  • Choose to eat only natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables. This means learning and practising to taste the natural sweetness in fresh fruits, and even sweet vegetables too, such as ripe bell peppers, and fully ripened tomatoes. Our ancestors didnt have access to the kinds of concentrated or processed sugars available today, and our bodies are simply not designed to deal with the amounts or types consumed today.
  • Ensure that you keep your blood sugar levels and insulin levels L-O-W. This is achievable by doing 3 fundamental things. Firstly reduce your overall sugar intake. Secondly, eat sufficient amounts of protein, and thirdly eat regular amounts (preferably small meals throughout the day) of fresh fruits and veggies, and some protein from either seeds, nuts, legumes, fish or eggs (unless allergic).
  • Eat sufficient and regular amounts of protein from greens such as spinach, watercress, kale or cabbage, fennel, fresh green herbs, and green leafy salads and lettuces. 
  • Increase your intake of plant antioxidants in the diet. Employing an inside-out approach to caring for the skin is your first-line defence! Eating an abundance of antioxidant-rich greens, seeds, fruits and veggies ensures that maximum anti-aging nutrients work their way to the skin level, where a great majority of collagen and elastin fibres lie. Vitamin C is one the most vital when it comes to caring for the skin, as well as the muscles and joints. It is involved directly in collagen formation, but also in a protective way, working synergistically with Vitamin E, the primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Both protect the cell membranes from sun damage, and also help to keep sugar from attaching to the proteins in the cells structures. Some of the best vitamin C and vitamin E-rich foods that are widely accessible include almonds (soaked overnight until plump and juicy!), red, orange or yellow bell peppers, lemons, limes and kiwis, ripe or on-the-vine tomatoes, berries of all sorts, and avocado. 
  • Increase your intake of B vitamins. B1, B2 and B6 for example are all intricately involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and protein (and fat too). B vitamins are also potent AGE inhibitors. B vitamins are found in wholegrains such as quinoa and brown rice, as well as green veggies, leaves and herbs, nuts and seeds. Taking a good quality B Complex is highly recommended when it comes to effective sugar and energy metabolism.
  • Be aware of what you put ON your skin, as well as in your body! Try a natural face cream and body lotion such as coconut butter. There are some great natural, unadulterated products on the market nowadays, such as Raw Gaia (www.rawgaia.com), which is good enough to eat! Ideally, we shouldnt put anything on our skin that we wouldnt put in our mouths! The skin is our largest eliminatory organ, that not only absorbs very readily, it must also be kept clear and clean, to eliminate toxins and waste, and to breathe properly. This is why dry skin brushing is so beneficial to overall body detoxification, as well as consumption of clean water, and freshly juices vegetables and low-sugar fruits. 
  • If you need to wear a sunscreen lotion, choose a natural and chemical-free brand.

Reducing sugar intake is by far the fastest way to improved health of the entire body, and mind too!

This is the worst kind of sugar:
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a cheap sweetening agent used extensively in food manufacturing. This is not a natural sugar and is never naturally present in any foods. It is a very popular ingredient in canned sugary drinks and sodas, juices and fruit-flavoured drinks, breads (yes even bread!), biscuits, cereal bars, frozen meals, and other packaged/processed foods. HFCS interferes with hormones that would normally regulate our appetites and blood sugar levels. HFCS converts to fat in the body far more readily than natural sugar, and causes us to store more fat, especially on the stomach and round the hips, thighs and buttocks. Many scientists, doctors and health professionals believe that eating large amounts of HFCS is directly linked to the escalating rates of diabetes and obesity.

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