This is going to be hard to hear, but the truth is, for those of us combating the aging process, sugar is an enemy.
I know it tastes good and we’re conditioned to love it, but unfortunately, it robs our skin of its elasticity, and what’s even worse- eating too much can lead to illnesses.
While most of us will never be able to omit sugar entirely, it’s a good idea to minimize our intake, especially if we want healthy, youthful skin. Here’s why: ALL sugars, even natural sweeteners like agave, honey, and maple syrup, raise our blood sugar level. Natural sugars are a little better for us, because they raise it less or more slowly and they contain some nutrients (white sugar has none), however all sugars raise the blood sugar level.
According to anti-aging specialist Dr. Nicolas Perricone, a spike in our blood sugar level causes inflammation on a cellular level, which causes our skin to wrinkle. Yikes! Put down that donut!
Dr. Perricone is hardly alone in this assertion. Many of the doctors whose books on anti-aging I’ve read: Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Howard Murad, Dr. Jessica Wu and Dr. Adrienne Denese advise us to eschew sugar. Dr. Wu states that, “glucose actually eats away at your skin’s collagen and elastin.” Scary stuff!
When our blood sugar spikes quickly and repeatedly, the sugar attaches to the proteins (collagen and elastin) in our skin, rendering them stiff and inflexible. This process is called “glycation.” These harmful sugar molecules attach to the collagen and elastin fibers in our skin and form compounds called “advanced glycation end- products” or AGEs. As these AGEs accumulate they damage adjacent proteins, which leads to sagging skin, and wrinkles.
So, if you’re trying to stay young and dewy-looking, definitely consider cutting back your sugar intake considerably.
And if wrinkles aren’t enough to get you off the sweet stuff, there’s more, and it gets worse.
In April of this year, The New York Times published an article called “Is Sugar Toxic,” written by Gary Taubes. The article discussed the work of a hormone specialist, Dr. Robert Lustig, who presented a lecture in 2009 called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which I highly recommend. You can find it on youtube.
Lustig’s research concludes that sugar is, indeed, toxic and that it is not only aging us, it’s making us sick and fat. His evidence, which includes statistics on diabetes and obesity levels since the “low fat” craze began, is quite compelling. Processed “fat free” foods generally contain more sugar, which helps make them taste better after all the flavor enhancing fat has been removed. Sugar and its evil twin High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is ubiquitous in processed foods and beverages is not just bad for us, according to Lustig, it’s a poison, akin to alcohol and cigarettes.
I was aware that too much sugar could contribute to problems with diabetes, but I had no idea that it may also contribute to heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers. This may sound a bit overblown, especially if you’re hearing it for the first time, but Lustig’s research and statistics are persuasive. Since watching his lecture, I am definitely eating a lot less sugar.
Another surprising thing I learned via Lustig is that fruit juice isn’t as good for us as we may have thought. Whole fruit is much better than juice, because when you eat whole fruit the fiber content helps keep it from spiking your blood sugar level. Fruit juice has a lot of sugar, with no fiber to mitigate it, and too much of it can be as harmful as regular sugar.
Even if you aren’t convinced of the correlation between sugar and these other health concerns, the fact that sugarspeeds up the aging process is inarguable and has been accepted in the anti-aging community well before Lustig’s 2009 lecture. Doctors overwhelmingly agree that eating sugar and HFCS causes inflammation and inflammation is the enemy of youthful skin.
Unfortunately, it would be nearly impossible to omit sugar from our diets entirely, because even fruits, vegetables and whole grains turn to glucose (the type of sugar that fuels glycation) when digested. But cutting way back can help.
An article in Prevention, written by Karen Repinski recommends the following guidelines: “Keep added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. If you’re a 45-year-old woman of average height (5-foot-4), that’s 160 calories (or 10 teaspoons) from added sugar–about the number in one 12-ounce can of soda or six Hershey’s Kisses. By comparison, the average American consumes 31 teaspoons per day of added sugar, or the equivalent of 465 calories.”
If you’re among those who must have regular sugar, follow her guidelines.
I recommend that you omit white sugar altogether and stick to no more than 160 calories from either honey, maple syrup or agave syrup. I also recommend Stevia, which is a natural sweetner (made from a plant) than doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. It has very few calories and it’s recommend by anti-aging specialists Dr. Jessica Wu, author of Feed Your Face and also by by Dr. Howard Murad, author of The Water Secret.
Other than Stevia, most anti-aging doctors do not recommend artificial sweeteners, like Equal, because the chemicals in them cause our bodies to crave sweets.
Here are some recommendations:
1. Read labels and check for sugar in prepared foods. Don’t eat foods that contain high fructose corn syrup. This is easier said than done, because it’s in so many foods, but if you eat fewer processed foods and more whole foods, you can avoid it.
2. Consider omitting soda from your diet. Instead drink water, carbonated water with a splash of lemon or lime, tea, or coconut water.
3. Stop adding processed sugar to food and beverages. Opt for natural sweeteners like honey, agave and maple syrup, but use the smallest amount your taste buds will allow.
4. Drink less fruit juice (which is all sugar, no fiber) and eat the whole fruit instead. Or make smoothies from low sugar fruits, like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
5. Eat fewer high glycemic carbohydrates like white flour, white rice and pasta, because these also raise the blood sugar level. Instead, eat whole grains, like brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa.
The fact that sugar is so detrimental to our health is difficult to accept. It has comforted us throughout our lives which makes it hard to revise our view of it and our habit of consuming it without worry. Still, knowledge is power and it’s definitely empowering to know what the things we eat are doing to our bodies.
It would make life less enjoyable if we could NEVER enjoy sweets, so I’m not suggesting that we make ourselves miserable and avoid eating anything fun. What I am suggesting is that we will benefit if we eat less sugar, and we’ll look much better, too.
Stay healthy and beautiful!