There's no gentle way to say it: That cupcake, that leche flan, that ice cream is making you and I look older than we really are! It doesn't matter if we aren't the type that gains weight easily, or the type that wants to lose a few pounds. If losing inches and weight isn't going to make us ditch sugar forever, then maybe the prospect of having younger skin and internal organs will. In the end, it's these parts of our bodies that keep us looking and feeling younger.
Fact: Eating sugar makes our skin saggy and lifeless.
Think of it this way. Each time we consume sugar, a process called glycation occurs. In glycation, the sugar in our bloodstream clings on to proteins, which mutate into harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs for short. We kid not.). Ergo, the more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. AGEs destroy our natural collagen and elastin — the proteins of our skin that keep it smooth and supple. Wrinkles and sagging skin are the result of this damage, and usually manifest when we start to approach our 30's.
And get this: Glycation "turns off" the body's antioxidant enzymes, which protect us from UV damage. That means if we're eating sugar and getting sun (even with sunscreen), our skin is getting more and more brittle. The worst part is that a high-sugar habit will often result in type-2 diabetes, which also causes premature aging.
How to cut back on sugar
1. Cut out processed sugar. This goes without saying. Skip the traditional cakes, ice cream, desserts, and commercially produced treats, i.e. almost anything in the supermarket, in restaurants and cafes, to be honest. If you want to cut back gradually, start by counting your sugar calories. Start by consuming no more than 10% in added sugar of your body's total calories for your age, height and weight.
2. Go even further and avoid sugar even in its "healthier" forms. This isn't easy because sugars are found literally everywhere: Even whole grains, fruits, and vegetables turn to glucose when digested (which leads to glycation, as described above). These foods are good for us and part of a balanced diet, but we can limit our intake of the typical "healthy sugars" like muscovado, coco sugar, and other similar added sweeteners.
3. By all means, nix high fructose corn syrup at all costs. HFCS is present in almost every type of packaged food. It is a chemical compound created artificially by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose. Among all the sugar varients, this causes the most AGEs than other types. It is found in canned soda, fruit-flavored drinks, packaged foods, in supermarket breads, crackers, and almost any snack pack. Be meticulous about reading food labels so that you avoid this toxic sugar!
4. Get your daily dose of antioxidants. Antioxidants are the body's free-radical fighters that prevent sugar from attaching to proteins and creating AGEs. Form a daily habit of consuming antioxidant-rich fruits, nuts, and vegetables as a way to curb your sugar cravings. Also develop the practice of a skincare regimen by applying topical antioxidants to your skin daily. Natural products that use green tea extract and vitamins C and E are helpful in this case.
5. Bulk up on the SPF. Of course, eat healthy, but ultimately keep your skin protected with a daily habit of applying sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30. Go for natural brands that use anti-aging ingredients.