How skipping sugar can save your skin

The latest research shows that obesity, diabetes and heart disease can be attributed to too much sugar, but did you know that the sweet stuff can also significantly affect the quality of your skin?

In a process known as glycation, sugar bonds with the body’s fats and proteins. This creates free radicals that destroy elastin and collagen, the very things that keep skin plump, supple and resilient. Glycation also causes advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that turn protein fibers distorted, stiff, and much more susceptible to other factors that hurt the skin such as cigarette smoke and UV damage.

So it makes sense to skip sugar. Easy peasy. Save for the fact that it’s actually pretty addictive. The sudden jolt of energy experienced after cup of frozen yogurt? It’s the spiking of our blood-sugar and dopamine levels. And as anyone who has binged on a family size pack of jelly beans can tell you, this is followed by a plunging crash. By then, we feel irritable, moody, unreasonably exhausted. To combat this slump, we crave more sugar. It’s the most classic vicious cycle.

So how can we ease off? Like most life changes, releasing ourselves from the clutches of sugar takes willpower, time, and some active strategies. It’s a good thing we’ve listed our favourites below!

 

Eliminate sweet drinks

The first step is to get yourself used to the fact that you can’t accompany every meal with what is known as “free sugars”, the most damaging of all. This includes added sugars as well as those naturally found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and juice concentrates.

Because you consume them so quickly, beverages are by far the most efficient way to hit your day’s limit, or according to the World Health Organisation, about 10% of your total energy intake. So avoid sugary sodas and have your tea or coffee unsweetened.

A word to the wise: This will be incredibly challenging! See, food is more often than not a social activity, and you’ll have to fight the urge to join in when all your colleagues are ordering takeout iced-coffees, for example. What makes this even harder is the fact that you will be getting your palate used to life with less sweetness, and actively ignoring cravings as they come!

 

Eat your sugar

You heard us right. But of course we mean whole fruits and not chocolate bars. Craving sugar is natural and frankly, it would be extreme to abstain completely. But when you consume fruits in their whole form, the moderate amounts of sugar contained (which keep the brain active and provide stores of energy for muscles) are accompanied by a slew of good-for-you essential nutrients like vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals, making the most out of what nature has to offer.

 

Watch a documentary

Sometimes it takes more than an intention to create a change in behavior. And we know it’s especially hard to break old habits when it’s something that reinforces itself the way sugar cravings do.

One way to stick to your goal is to arm yourself with facts, so you’ll know exactly what sugar does, and use that information as motivation. Documentaries such as That Sugar Film, Sugar Coated and The Truth About Sugar delve into the effects of overconsumption as it happens, and offers compelling statistics and engaging insights that will keep you away from the soda aisle for a very long time.

 

Take it one choice at a time

Whether you would like to incrementally drop your daily sugar intake or quit cold turkey, skipping sugar is a process. What helps is taking it one choice at a time, each drink or meal at a time.

So instead of feeling like you’ll never have ice-cream again, make the choice to pick water over lemonade at one meal, a fruit salad instead of sundae at the next, or a refreshing iced oolong tea instead of fizzy drinks for a midday pick me up. Making the switch in baby steps can feel significantly more manageable.

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