Ah, the sweet tooth! Greek people are notoriously famous for having some of the greatest deserts on earth and consuming them too, sometimes in large quantities. (Who could blame us?)
But is this sugar consumption ruining your skin and overruling the health (and anti-ageing) benefits that the Mediterranean diet is so famous for ?
If you're over 30 and a woman, have you noticed any of the following tell-tale signs of 'sugar face'?
- The surface of your skin looks hard and shiny.
- Deep, crosshatch lines appear along your upper lip.
- Discolouration and hyperpigmentation marks on your skin.
- Deep crevices appear, especially around the laugh line area.
- The skin around your jowl area is sagging.
Sugar damages your skin through a natural process called glycation. The sugar in your bloodstream connects to proteins to produce harmful free radicals called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As AGEs accumulate (the more sugar you eat, the more you develop), they damage the proteins around them.
According to the British Journal of Dermatology, the visible signs of glycation tend to emerge in women around the age of 35.
By this time, the collective accumulation of oxidative damage, hormonal changes and AGE development amalgamate. In return, your skin (the body's largest organ) is unable to halt the damage done with insufficient collagen and elastin synthesis and begins to show wear and tear. Scary, hey!
But it's not all bad news.
With enough willpower, you can stop glycation destruction in its tracks by adopting some lifestyle and diet changes.
Tips to stop ageing in its tracks:
- Firstly, drink more water! Your body needs 2L of water a day just to digest food properly. Aim for 2.5L of water a day, and more if you exercise frequently. Although drinking water doesn’t directly influence your skin’s hydration, it does assist your body in carrying out the key functions that support healthy skin more effectively.
- Water is vital to the creation of collagen and elastin. Keeping your body hydrated can improve its ability to prevent the ageing effects of glycation. Start incorporating more water-rich foods like cucumber, tomatoes and watermelon into your diet to maintain proper hydration. Pure coconut water is also extremely hydrating, just be sure to dilute it (50/50).
- Cut back on sugar. Oh no, here we go! No more bougatsa, baklava or ekmek! (Ah what will we do?!). As Greeks, it can be more difficult to eliminate sugar completely from our diets. There are several steps you can implement in order to help cut back on the amount of sugar you consume. This Prevention article advises to keep your 'added sugar' intake to no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake. The article also advocates steering clear of “hidden sugars” like barley malt, fruit juice concentrate and maple syrup. The worst of this bunch is high fructose corn syrup. This type of sugar, found in most soft drinks, sweetened fruit drinks and numerous packaged foods, produces the most AGEs! No thank you. I'd rather steer clear. No ageing for me.
- Supplement your diet (correctly). Several published studies assert that vitamins B1 and B6 are AGE inhibitors. But where can you source these supplements from? You can buy these over the counter or you can find them in food. Vitamin B1 (also called thiamin) can be found in yeast, beef, pork, nuts, whole grains, and pulses. There are high concentrations of Vitamin B1 in the outer layers and germ of cereals. Fruit and vegetables that contain B1 include cauliflower, oranges, eggs, potatoes, asparagus, kale and spinach. Thiamin contains powerful antioxidant properties that assist in the battle against free radicals. Vitamin B6 (also called pyridoxine) is essential for skin development and maintenance. Vitamin B6 can be found in fish, chicken, tofu, pork, beef, sweet potatoes, bananas, potatoes, avocados, and pistachios.
- Consume (and apply) lots of antioxidants. Antioxidants counterbalance and protect the body from the damaging consequences of free radicals. These naturally occurring vitamins and minerals put a strain on the formation of glycation by blocking sugar from attaching to proteins. Unless you are really unwell, your body should produce antioxidants naturally. You can also find them in ordinary foods like berries, leafy greens (spinach is the best) and even coffee! You can also find antioxidants in your skincare. Next time you are buying skincare, look for products that contain Vitamins C and E. These two vitamins, in particular, help collagen and elastin hold their shape and maintain their strength. Vitamin E can also be taken as a capsule.
- Lastly, the best part, get MORE SLEEP! The best beauty hack we should know about is called sleep. During your sleep, your skin goes into overdrive, renewing and repairing any damage done during the day. But hardly any of us sleep properly, or enough. We're talking about the quality of sleep, not just how long we sleep. When you're in 'deep sleep', your body does the most work to counteract the aging effects of sugar and other stressors. Many studies reveal that a lack of sleep contributes to more fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone and less elasticity. So, work on your sleep hygiene and create healthy sleeping habits for more beautiful skin!
Now that we've laid bare the damaging effects of sugar on the skin, you can only imagine the effect sugar has on the rest of the body!
Sugar is a silent killer, with many of us consuming unknowingly (or knowingly) more than 15 teaspoons a day.
A good rule to follow is the 80/20 diet. Eat as healthily as you can for 80% of the time, but don't restrict yourself completely. During the 20%, have that piece of bougatsa and really enjoy it.
You'll find that the less sugar you eat, the less you'll want it.
Read more on sugar intake here: