I’ve written before on the perils of hidden sugar in seemingly healthy things like breakfast cereals, granola, muesli bars and yogurt. It drives me crazy that these foods are dressed up to sound like they’re good for you, when quite the opposite is true. And this comes from someone who worked in marketing for 20 years, so I know all the tricks. Words like ‘organic’, ‘gluten free’, ‘all natural’, ‘low fat’ make us believe something’s healthy but often what’s not being said is that it’s packed full of sugar.
Research shows that eating too much sugar poses a big threat to our health. It’s been linked to diabetes, heart disease and dementia, as well as weight gain and obesity. From a personal perspective, I’m interested in sugar’s impact on the skin.
I had acne in my 20s, then again in my 30s and am very happy to be finally spot-free in my 40s. I learnt some valuable skin lessons along the way, one of which is that sugar leads to less-than-glowing skin. In fact, sugar can trigger acne, exacerbate rosacea and lead to loss of elasticity and wrinkles.
When we eat sugar, it leads to a spike in insulin levels, creating inflammation in the body.
This triggers enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, plus digested sugar permanently attaches to collagen through a process called glycation, which makes the skin stiffer.
Not sounding so great,right?
A big, positive step you can take for your health, wellness, waistline AND skin is to reduce refined sugar. I’m talking about the stuff that’s in packaged food and drinks including the ones that sound healthy. Read labels and check how much sugar’s in there before you buy it.
Here are 6 ways to reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming:
1. Read labels: my rule of thumb is to look for food and drink that contains no more than 6g of sugar per 100g or 100ml.
2. Ditch sugary breakfasts and replace them with savoury: go for wholemeal or sourdough toast with butter, marmite or avocado instead of jam or marmalade. Try eggs in any form, maybe with something on the side like spinach, mushrooms or tomatoes. The more colourful veggies in your diet each day, the better.
3. Be prepared for 3pm and plan your afternoon snack: Most of my clients struggle with the 3pm energy slump and my advice to them is to have a savoury snack at the ready: a handful of almonds, an apple with some (unsweetened!) peanut butter, a full-fat natural yogurt with some seeds and a few berries thrown in. If you have something ready, you’re much less likely to reach for a biscuit, chocolate bar or 'healthy' musli bar.
4. Decide if you really need dessert: After dinner wait 30 minutes (I have a client who sets a timer) before you have anything else to eat. This means you can tune into whether you’re still hungry and if you need dessert or not. If you ARE still hungry try the afternoon snack tricks above. An apple with a slice of cheese or peanut butter usually negates the need for a sweet dessert.
5. If you want chocolate, have the good stuff: We have such an attachment to it but most commercial chocolate has very little cocoa in it. We’re actually getting a ‘fix’ from the sugar and fat. Good quality chocolate has a much lower sugar (and higher cocoa) content. Gradually replace any corner-shop or vending-machine bought sugary confection with good quality chocolate containing 60% cocoa solids like Green & Blacks or Lindt.
6. Don’t drink sugar: Stay away from soft drinks including sugary fizzy drinks, fruit juice, squash and fruit smoothies. They all contain a whole load of sugar that you just don’t need. Drink lots of water instead. If you choose to have a smoothie or juice make sure it’s mainly vegetable based.
I’ll be honest, it’s not easy to give up processed sugar as our bodies are hard-wired to love the stuff and it's everywhere. Once you start to cut back, your body will crave it for a while until it readjusts, then you’ll find that the sugar cravings start to subside.
Try it. It’s worth it. Your skin will glow with good health when you scale back on the sweet stuff.
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Be glorious. Stay well.