Future Proof Your Skin

Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, in her book ‘Future Proof Your Skin – Slow down your biological clock by changing the way you eat’, offers tips on how to help keep your skin healthy and reduce premature ageing.

Cut out sugar which reacts with collagen in your skin to form Advanced Glycation End products, or AGEs. These reduce the quality of collagen fibres so the less sugar your family eats, the better. Fruit sugar (fructose) forms even more AGEs than glucose, and is found in many natural sweeteners like agave syrup which are also best avoided. Other sources include sugary fruits (tropical fruits are the worst), fruit juice and dried fruit. Good fruit options are berries, as they are relatively low in sugar and high in antioxidants. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame should be strictly avoided. Not only are they nasty chemical substances, but they have also been connected to obesity and diabetes.

Greatly reduce your grain and starch intake Most people believe a diet rich in grains is good for health as whole grains in particular are touted as especially healthy. But starches, the carbohydrates in grains, are simply long strings of sugar molecules and eating them will still make your skin and body age prematurely. Once ingested, your body breaks them down into sugar units to use as fuel or store as fat. So the advice is: Greatly reduce your intake of grains and starches including bread, pasta, rice and potato. There are great replacements such as almond and coconut flour for baking, aubergine chips instead of French Fries and grated raw cauliflower, briefly fried in olive oil instead of rice.

Moderate your beans and lentil intake Although these have a healthy reputation, they have a high carbohydrate content. They also contain natural toxins such as lectins. There are better and much more nutritious carbs available, such as vegetables (and in moderation also sweet potatoes and winternut squash).

Eat lots and lots of vegetables Two thirds of food on your plate should always be fibre-rich vegetables. A high vegetable intake is associated with decreased skin wrinkling and better skin quality, as well as with reduced risks of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases of ageing. Vegetables provide plenty of fibre and antioxidants, but go easy with starchy vegetables, which can have a surprisingly strong effect on your blood sugar levels. For example, roast parsnips can bring up our blood sugar more than pure table sugar.

Eat more fat! Studies show that eating more fat makes your skin more elastic and less wrinkly. The increase in fat consumption has to be done in conjunction with sugar and grain reduction. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado and macadamia nut oil are especially good for you, but polyunsaturated vegetable seed oils (eg sunflower oil) contain omega-6 fatty acids which can increase inflammation. So cut out omega-6 rich vegetable seed oils, but have plenty of monounsaturated fats. Animal fats and butter, also rich in saturated fat, are nowhere near as bad as their reputation. Saturated fat is actually a vital part of your body and skin. Eggs are fine too! Cholesterol is a fundamental component of our skin and is also needed to produce certain hormones and vitamin D.

Don’t forget your daily protein which provides important building blocks for your entire body. As you can store very little protein, you have to eat sufficient amounts on a daily basis to supply your body and skin with all it needs. Generally, animal protein (meat, fish and eggs) contains all the amino acids you need. Plants sources of protein (legumes, grains, vegetables) provide considerably less – even those touted as particularly protein rich. You need to eat not only plants, but ideally also animal-based foods to obtain your daily protein quota.

Fast your way to a long life Even though it’s often advised to graze on up to eight meals per day to ‘keep sugar levels steady’, this actually keeps sugar levels higher than needed throughout the day so your skin and body age faster. To keep blood sugar and insulin levels low, avoid grazing. Irregular meal times keep your body guessing when food is next going to arrive, which optimizes cell repair.

Drink yourself young Drinking lots of unsweetened green and white tea, as they are rich in antioxidants, are great for skin and general health. Cut out fruit juices and smoothies, as well as avoid milk which raises insulin levels more than expected from its sugar content alone. You could replace dairy milk with unsweetened almond or coconut milk. Also keep alcohol to a minimum, as it promotes inflammation.

Shun processed and convenience foods Try to eat whole foods in their most natural state and prepare meals yourself. Processed and convenience foods almost always contain undesirable ingredients including sugar, processed carbohydrates and vegetable seed oils. They are also high in pre-formed AGEs.

Spice up your life Herbs and spices, especially rosemary, garlic, turmeric, curcumin and cinnamon, are a great addition to any skin health and longevity eating plan. Not only do spices add flavour and variety to your food, they also contain bioactive substances with positive effects on general health, skin and life span.

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