My teens and early 20s were the worst years of my life.
The only good thing about them? I could eat whatever crap I wanted and still have a lot of energy.
Not anymore. Since I’ve turned the big 3-0, I’ve noticed that I get tired a little faster. I put on weight a little easier. Even my fine lines are getting that little bit deeper.
It was time to do something about it. In the past couple of years, I’ve made some changes to my diet that gave me my energy back and help me keep my weight down.
They also gave me my best skin ever. Don’t get me wrong. The right skincare products and treatments help a lot but you’re kind of sabotaging them if you don’t feed your body what it needs to make healthy, glowy skin.
Since I’ve made these changes, my skin has become clearer and brighter. Now I get the odd pimple only on those weeks when I either travel a lot or have so many meetings, it’s a struggle to eat as well as I’d like. But, that’s cool. We all need cheat days every now and then. 😉
Let’s not waste anymore time then! Here are 5 diet changes you should make for clearer, brighter, younger-looking skin:
1. Swap Sugar Sweets For Dark Chocolate
C’mon, you knew this one was coming!
I’m not gonna lie, this was (still is) the biggest sacrifice for me. I’m addicted to sugar. If there’s a bar of chocolate, a pack of biscuit, or a croissant around, I MUST eat it. It’s begging me to.
Sugar is so sweet, you never see its damage coming. Like rotten teeth. Weight gain. Wrinkles… Sugar is so bad because it’s highly inflammatory.
Sugar makes your body produce something called “advanced glycation end products”. Or AGEs for short. That tells you all you need to know about them really.
AGEs damage your collagen and elastin, leading to the premature appearance of wrinkles.
By the way, that’s why diabetics look older than their real age. Their body can’t control blood sugar levels. And when blood sugar levels are high, it’s AGEs galore!
But, wait! You don’t need to give up chocolate completely. Yay! You just need to switch to dark chocolate (72% or higher). Dark chocolate is loaded with flavonols, a group of antioxidants that FIGHTS inflammation.
And yes, every now and then you can go ahead and have that piece of cake. Just make it the exception, not the rule. 😉
Related: Can Dark Chocolate Prevent Wrinkles?
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2. Swap Fruit Juice/Smoothies For Vegetable Juice
I’ve never liked soda drinks much. I’m probably the only person on the planet who thinks Coke tastes like crap. I can’t drink it even if I’m super thirsty…
Anyway, I’ve always said no to soda drinks but I thought fruit juices and smoothies were fine. I mean, fruit IS good for you, isn’t it?
Turns out, it’s not that easy. A lot of fruit juices out there have A TON of sugar added to them. Way more sugar than fruit, in fact.
Sugar takes your body on a rollercoaster ride. It makes your blood sugar level spike up, causing inflammation. Inflammation does all sorts of nasty things to your skin. It’s responsible for premature wrinkles and sagging and can even cause acne, psoriasis and eczema flare ups.
Making your ow fruit juice or smoothies is better… but only to a certain extent. Let me explain.
Whole fruits, like apples and oranges, have both sugar (fructose) and fiber. When you eat them whole, the fiber slows down the absorption of sugar so your blood sugar level doesn’t dramatically spike up.
But when you blend the fruit into a juice or smoothie, you’re basically removing the fiber (I believe there are blenders that don’t remove fiber completely from smoothies, but they’re on the expensive side). In other words, your blood sugar level will spike up rapidly and trigger inflammation in your body.
Just to put things into perspective, let’s look at the glycemic load (GL) of oranges. The glycemic load measures how quickly a food makes your blood level rise.
One serving of oranges has a GL of 5. One serving of orange juice (unsweetened) a GL of 12! Quite the difference, don’t you think?
Vegetable juice, on the other hand, has a lot less sugar. You can drink it safely without seeing your blood level spike up much. But I still add a few blueberries to my vegetable juices. They have very little sugar, are packed with antioxidants and make kale taste better. 🙂
Related: I Went On The Low-Glycemic Diet And It Transformed My Skin
3. Swap Fried Foods For Slow Cooked Ones
Even a slipper, deep-fried, is good.
That’s an old saying we have in Italy. There’s something about deep-frying that makes everything taste better.
Could it be AGEs? Yep, those nasty buggers again. When you cook something at high temperatures, you trigger the same reaction that makes AGEs.
If you don’t want wrinkles (and I’m pretty sure you don’t), turn that heat down. I know it’ll take longer to cook your dinner but what you spend in time, you’ll save in wrinkles. Besides, slow cooked foods taste delicious!
If I really don’t have the time to slow cook, I’ll just eat raw foods. No AGEs. No waiting. Win win. 🙂
4. Swap Semi-Skimmed And Fat-Free Dairy For Nut Milk And Butters
I haven’t drunk milk since I was a baby. It just doesn’t agree with me. But dairy products like cheese and yogurt? Yummy!
I have no intention of giving up on cheese anytime soon but I’ve seriously cut back on the amount of diary I consume. Semi-skimmed and fat-free are banned for good. They’re high in natural sugars (lactose) and low in the good kind of fats. You already know by now what sugar does to your skin, right? Don’t go there.
What about normal milk? Turns out some cows make milk with A1 casein, a protein that’s very inflammatory for some people.
Not all cows make it. A1 casein comes from Holstein and Friesian cows in western Europe, North America, and Australia. Cows in Africa, Asia, Iceland and southern Europe make milk with A2 casein, which is a lot less problematic.
There’s more. Sometimes, manufacturers feed the cows hormones to make them grow faster. Those end up in your milk too.
I find my body tolerates small doses of dairy products well, but if you have an inflammatory skin condition like acne, psoriasis and eczema, you may want to consider cutting them out of your diet. They may trigger another outbreak.
Instead, try nut milk and butters. They’re loaded with omega-3 that moisturise your skin, fight wrinkles, and boost your mood.
I admit I’m not a big fan of unsweetened almond milk. It’s too bitter on its own. I just add it to omelettes or oatmeal. And nut butters make a delicious snack.
5. Swap Vegetable Oil For Olive Oil
Ok, I haven’t done this change myself. I’m Italian so I’ve used olive oil since I was born. And like any good Italian, I now have to spread the cooking gospel and urge you to do the same.
Vegetable oil is the devil. It’s rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Now, these fatty acids aren’t bad. Your body needs them. But here’s the catch: they need to be balanced with omega-3 fatty acids.
The perfect omega-6 – omega-3 ration for a healthy body and skin is 3:1. This ration is ANTI-inflammatory. But on our Western diet, this ratio is more likely to be 15:1! When omega-6 overpower omega-3 by this much, your diet because super PRO-inflammatory.
Vegetable oil isn’t the only food with omega-6, but it’s one of the worst because it’s everywhere. You don’t think that those pre-made meals or Starbucks sandwiches are made with the good kind of oil, do you? Even Wholefoods uses vegetable oils for the foods it sells at its delis and restaurants!
I know you can’t avoid grabbing a sandwich on the way or keeping a pre-made meal in the freezer for those days when you really don’t have time to cook, but for the love of your skin, keep it at least out of your kitchen. Do not cook with it yourself.
Use extra virgin olive oil for that. It’s by far the best type of oil. Not only it won’t cause inflammation, it’s also loaded with antioxidants that fight it. Plus, it’s delicious.
If you really feel like cheating, try macadamia nut oil or avocado oil. But keep those vegetable oils (yes, even canola!) out of your kitchen! Don’t make me say it again!
Related: The Best Cooking Oils For Healthy Skin
The Bottom Line
Don’t let your diet sabotage your skincare routine. Feed your skin the healthy foods it needs and it’ll reward with a clear and bright complexion. Bye bye wrinkles and pimples!