Sugar and Skin
By Allison Tannis
Indulging in fistfuls of colourful candy can make you feel like a kid, but there is nothing youthful about sugar’s effect on your skin. Eating sugary foods causes a cascade of damaging reactions that can make your skin age faster.
Sugar Makes Us Happy
The euphoric grin and that satisfied moan that slips out when we eat sweet food is a clear sign that sugar makes us feel good. Sugar stimulates the release of happy hormones in the brain. Foods with high amounts of simple sugar in them elicit a fast release of these happy hormones. Such foods include candy, sugary coffee drinks, muffins, condiments, white bread, crackers and some breakfast cereals. The ‘sugar high’ we experience from these foods makes us feel happy, but it also damages our skin.
Sugar AGEs the Skin
High sugar levels in the skin cause a process called glycation. You can think of glycation as the process of tying knots with the scaffolding (collagen and elastin) of the skin. Sugar in the skin causes the amino acids in collagen and elastin to cross-link. By linking to each other, elastin and collagen loose their ability to stretch and recoil. Scientists thought they were witty when they called these knots advanced glycation end products (AGEs) since the knots cause the skin to look less youthful. To avoid this ‘AGE-ing’ of your skin don’t eat sugary treats.
Your Weakest Moment
Afternoon cravings are more common than not. In fact, according to British researchers most people are likely to give into a sugary craving like cookies, sugary coffee-drinks and muffins around 4:12 P.M. Dr. Joey Shulman, a chiropractor and national best-selling author of nutrition-related books, says don’t give in! Instead, reach for “fibre, fat and protein to help fill you up and end a craving…good options include frozen berries or mango, a hard-boiled egg, walnuts or almonds.”
Squash Your Craving
Succumbing to sugary cravings does not only age your skin, it will “result in extra weight gain around the belly region, fatigue and an intense craving for more!” says Shulman. You can also squash your cravings with healthy options like a glass of water or herbal tea, some fruit or vegetables, a handful of almonds, or inulin. Haven’t heard of inulin before? Inulin is a fiber that can make you feel satiated and promotes digestive health. There are even chews that contain inulin, designed for moments (like 4:12pm) when cravings arise.
Can Food Really Make a Difference?
When researchers studied the diet of people from Australia, China, Greece, Japan and Sweden, they found eating vegetables, legumes, fish and olive oil were associated with younger-looking skin. It makes sense that diets rich in whole foods like vegetables, fish and legumes would be helpful to the skin as they are low in sugar.
Cutting Out Sugar
Did you known the average Canadian consumes 2 pounds of sugar per week? Sugar is hiding in many everyday foods and drinks. We know that cutting sugar completely out of your day isn’t realistic. By focusing on whole, fresh foods you can cut down on your sugar intake and feed your skin beautiful.
Surprisingly Sugary Foods In Your Day:
2 tbsp of peanut butter = ½ tsp of sugar
1 tbsp of mayonnaise = ¼ tsp sugar
½ cup of pasta sauce = 2.5 tsp of sugar
1 granola bar = 2 ½ tsp of sugar
1 tbsp of ketchup = 1 tsp of sugar
1 small iced coffee = up to 8 tsp of sugar
About the Expert Allison Tannis, BSc MSc RHN is a nutritional scientist and registered holistic nutritionist based in Halifax, NS. She wrote Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles.