What To Eat (And NOT To Eat) For Flawless, Beautiful Skin: An Interview With Dr Stefanie Williams

by Gio
stefanie williams on what to eat for younger-looking skin

It was supposed to be just another blogging event.

Go in. Listen to a presentation about acne. Chat with the experts. Try a few treatments. Munch on some carrots (that’s standard fare at most blogging events these days). Grab the goodie bag. Leave.

It all went according to plan. Until I went home and had a look at what’s inside the goodie bag. A copy of Dr Stefanie Williams’ book, “Future Proof Your Skin: Slow Down Your Biological Clock By Changing The Way You Eat“. Now, if there’s a thing I love more than skincare is books, so I started reading it straight away.

It’s transforming my skin.

I’m not exaggerating. I’ve only overhauled my breakfast so far (I believe in baby steps), but my skin is already softer and suppler and I haven’t had a pimple in weeks. That’s the power of a good diet.

In her book, Dr Stefanie shares her FuturApproved plan, a diet she has created to achieve flawless, beautiful skin and live longer, too. I wanted to write a review but then I had a better idea. Why not invite Dr Stefanie here and let her do the talking?

I was so honoured when she agreed. In this first part of the interview, she shares more about herself and what the best and worst foods for your skin are (hint: her answers may surprise you):

1. Can you tell us something about yourself and how did you become passionate about slowing down the aging process through a healthy diet and lifestyle?

I am a fully qualified specialist dermatologist. After doing medical dermatology in the public state system for quite a few years treating everything from severe eczema to skin cancer, I decided to start offering private dermatology services, where I could spend more time with my patients. This is when I noticed that my private work consisted more of ‘fine-tuning’ rather than constant ‘fire fighting’. I was able to see patients, a lot of them with acne and rosacea, who felt let done by the public health system and give them all the care they needed, including talking in depth about their daily skincare routines and lifestyle factors affecting their skin. I feel strongly that nobody should feel bad about the condition of their skin, even if other people might not see it as very serious.

Often what I saw in clinic was that once I had cleared a medical condition such as acne for one of my patients, their priorities then changed and they started to look into how to make their skin overall look better. So I started my quest and over the next few years went on countless courses in my quest to master the art of non-surgical cosmetic treatments (I don’t do half measures…).

What I noticed over the years though was that treating a person from the outside alone is not the entire job. I knew that lifestyle factors such as diet play a massive role in how well (or badly) somebody ages. This is one of my passions and strong convictions – not only providing a ‘helping hand’ on the outside, but also empowering my patients with all the information they need to adjust their lifestyle in order to help them ‘anti-age’ from the inside out too.

I have spent years researching the subject of ageing and how it manifests itself, from a cellular level right up to the visible signs we see on our skin. By studying the science of aging in detail and applying these principles in my daily practice, I have developed an anti-aging lifestyle protocol called FuturApproved, which enables my patients to not only look their very best on the outside but also age well within and extending their life span. I have lived this way myself since 2011 and never felt better.

Combining a FuturApproved lifestyle with the helping hand of natural looking aesthetic procedures, such as hyaluronic acid fillers, is, in my opinion, the gold standard of ‘aging gracefully’.

2. What are the three worst foods for skin we all should try to avoid as much as possible and what should we replace them with?

Sugar, refined starches and ‘fake’ industrial foods!

Carbohydrates in starch are simply long strings of sugar molecules. Starch is essentially nature’s storage form of sugar! After eating starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, our body ultimately breaks these linear or branched sugar strings down into individual sugar units. Eventually, every 4g of starchy carbohydrates will result in one teaspoon of sugar in our blood.

Most starches do this at a slower pace than sugar. But some, like cornflakes breakfast cereal or a white baguette — and even some supposedly healthy foods such as roast parsnip or baked potato — can have a worse effect on our blood sugar level than pure table sugar. That’s why a diet relying largely on starchy carbohydrates (i.e. a typical Western diet) is disadvantageous for long-term skin health and our longevity.

Let’s be clear – the FuturApproved way of eating is NOT a so-called low-carb regime, as at least two-thirds of your plate will be filled with carbohydrates, but in their most nutritious form – vegetables! So this is by no means a low-carb diet (it’s simply not a high-carb diet like a typical Western diet).

Another important principle is to avoid any industrially processed ‘fake’ foods (if it comes in a wrapper or is pre-packaged, think again!). Most of the pre-packaged, processed food in supermarkets contain a plethora of unwelcome ingredients such as sugar, soy protein, modified starches and/or unstable polyunsaturated oils—so are best avoided in favour of natural, unprocessed whole foods. Always ask yourself – “is this real food or fake food?”.

Fats are in, quinoa is out: what to eat (and not to eat) for younger skin with @drstefaniewClick to Tweet

3. What are the three best foods we should munch on for beautiful and young skin?

Vegetables, healthy fats and high-quality complete proteins each day!

Vegetables

They’ll form the large base of our new, FuturApproved healthy eating pyramid (not grain based foods!). Good dietary habits are a major determinant of our body’s antioxidant status and oxidative stress level. We can raise our internal antioxidant levels significantly by eating antioxidant-rich foods such as vegetables.

Fibrous vegetables are by far the most nutritious form of carbohydrates, you can’t have too many of these ‘good carbs’ (yes, vegetables belong into the carbohydrate macronutrient group)! They will also provide you with all necessary fibre you need.

Eating a wide variety of vegetables also supports our gut microbiome (i.e. the army of friendly bacteria in our gut) and high vegetable consumption is associated with longer telomeres, and therefore lower biological age.

I recommend ideally seven portions of vegetables per day (one of which may be fruit) and the wider the variety of different types, the better (this will also greatly enhance the diversity of your gut microbiome). Eat the rainbow, the more colourful, the better.

Adding herbs and spices to your vegetables enhance not only flavour but also health benefits. Certain herbs such as turmeric have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and many herbs also nourish your gut microbiome.

The fat myth

Over the past 30 plus years, we have all been brainwashed into thinking of fat as the ‘enemy’, however, our body and skin need fat to thrive. Lipids form a vital component of every single cell membrane in our skin and body and help maintain cell structure and function. A low-fat diet is therefore not supportive of general health and will also make your skin age prematurely. Avoid low-fat diets like the plague.

Our skin and body need good fats. With ‘good fats’ I incidentally do not mean vegetable oils. Quite the contrary! Following my extensive search of the scientific literature, I sternly advise against consumption of omega-6 rich fats such as unstable polyunsaturated vegetable and seed oils including sunflower, safflower, rapeseed, grapeseed, canola, corn and soya oil. In my opinion, vegetable and seed oils are a non-desirable type of fat, as they are chemically altered and highly processed.

Another reason for avoiding omega-6 rich polyunsaturated oils is that our diet is highly omega-6 dominant as it is, which is not good. Ideally, we want to aim for an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 1:1 (or maybe 2:1), but often it’s 15:1 or worse in people on a typical Western diet. I don’t want to give the impression that omega-6 fatty acids are all bad, but they have to be in balance with omega-3, as, otherwise, they can turn pro-inflammatory.

There is only one type of fat that’s worse in my opinion and that’s trans fats (which incidentally are often derived from polyunsaturated fats). As everybody seems to know by now that trans fats are the devil, food manufacturers are often now substituting trans fats with ‘interesterified fats’, which raise similar health concerns to trans fats. That also includes margarines (hydrogenation turns fluid oils into spreadable form) – organic butter is much better.

Omega-3 such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are of course beneficial fatty acids for our general health and also our skin, as they are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and haven even been shown to help protect telomere length. They can be found in oily fish, krill and certain marine algae.

Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado oil and macadamia nut oil are highly recommended too, especially for cold dishes.

Saturated fats are also fine if your gut is healthy but good quality is key. Of course, you don’t want to eat anything but saturated fat the whole day, but they are also vital for optimal hormone production and are highly stable when heated and therefore a good choice for cooking. Good saturated fats are for example extra virgin coconut oil, goose and duck fat, organic butter or ghee and animal fat from organic pasture-fed animals.

So the bottom line is – throw out all your vegetable and seed oils, as the historic recommendation to replace saturated fat with vegetable oils is government led brainwashing based on flawed science.

So what are the benefits of eating fat for our skin specifically? Studies confirmed that higher intakes of total fat — monounsaturated and saturated — are significantly associated with increased skin elasticity and decreased wrinkling of the skin.

And there is another reason to avoid falling into the ‘low-fat trap’. When the food industry creates a low-fat food product, the removed fat has to be replaced with something. In the vast majority of cases, nasty refined carbohydrates are added. Many supposedly ‘healthy’ low-fat products are in fact stuffed with processed carbohydrates, which spike our blood sugar and insulin levels, increase glycation and oxidative stress and contribute to chronic inflammation, all of which have an adverse effect on skin health.

Protein

Protein provides crucial building blocks (called amino acids) for our body and forms muscle, hair, skin and connective tissue. As some amino acids are ‘essential’ — i.e. the body can’t produce them itself — we need to ensure we supply them via our food by ingesting sources of complete protein. And as our body has little capacity to store protein, we should provide it with sufficient amounts on a daily basis, ideally with every meal.

The best sources of complete protein are fish, meat and eggs. It would go beyond the scope of this article to explain why from a medical perspective a vegan way of eating is not ideal for human health, but I can recommend Liz Wolfe’s book Eat the Yolks to find out more.

Fish is of course highly beneficial not only because of its protein content but also because of its anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Meat is a great source of complete protein too, but to get all the benefits try and ‘eat the whole animal’, not just the muscle meat. That includes organ meat and collagen rich bone broth. And eggs are one of my ‘super foods’ (much more than the fashionable quinoa…). And don’t even think about not eating the yolk, some of the best nutrients such as choline are in in the yolk.

While we should supply our body with protein on a daily basis, we should be mindful not to overdo protein in exchange for vegetables. A good rule of thumb is that at least two-thirds of your plate (even better three-quarters) should be filled with vegetables and one-third with a mix of protein and fat. Another way of looking at it is to eat a piece of protein (i.e. fish, meat or eggs) the size of your palm with every meal.

Also make sure to choose the highest quality protein, which means wild fish (not farmed, even if organic), organic pasture-fed animal meat and free-range eggs from rummaging hens.

Thank you, Dr Stefanie!

This was just the first part of the interview. Tune in next week to find out why quinoa and smoothies aren’t as awesome as you think, what the best places to eat real food when you’re out and about are and what a day in Dr Stefanie’s FuturApproved plan is like (hint: the breakfast is delicious! – The rest ain’t bad either).

In the meantime, you can keep up with Dr Stefanie on her website (don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list to get her delicious recipes), buy her book, “Future Proof Your Skin: Slow Down Your Biological Clock By Changing The Way You Eat” on Amazon and chat with her on Twitter.

How is your diet affecting your skin, by the way?

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8 comments

Amy February 21, 2017 - 8:01 am

It’s ironic that she says recommendations to avoid saturated fats are based on “flawed science” since a lot of this is as well. “Organic” has not been shown to be any healthier than conventional produce, the “studies” showing high fat diets to be better for aging are small and low quality.

Reply
Gio February 27, 2017 - 9:50 am

Amy, thanks for your comment. In her defence, Dr Stefanie mentions in her book that there’s no point in buying organic produce because it isn’t better than conventional produce. It’s only when it comes to animal-derived products, such as meat and eggs, that she recommends opting for “organic” (grass-fed/free-range).

I also wouldn’t say that she recommends a high-fat diet. She clearly mentions that two thirds of your plate should be filled with vegetables and one third with fat AND protein. She’s just trying to dispell the notion that you have to avoid fat like the plague because some types of fats are very good for you.

This interview was very long (that’s why it’s in two parts) and I had to cut out a few things anyway, so maybe the confusion was more due to my editing abilities than Stefanie’s knowledge. If you’d like to know more, I recommend you check out her work yourself. You can subscribe to her mailing list for free and get a better idea of what she advocates that way.

Reply
Rachelle February 21, 2017 - 5:32 pm

What did you change your breakfast from and to?

Reply
Gio February 27, 2017 - 9:53 am

Rachelle, I used to have muesli (oats, raisins, almonds and dried fruit) with orange juice. Now I’m eating Greek yoghurt with macadamia nuts, coconut flakes and blueberries. It’s not just helping my skin. My digestion seems to have improved too.

Reply
Barbara February 22, 2017 - 5:51 pm

NOooooooooooooooooo caaaaaaaaaaaaarbs 🙁 I LOVE carbs… rice.. noodles. Those are my staples… Does that mean oats are out too?? And 1 portion of fruit??? I think I have at least 2 or 3 a day! This is terrible terrible news… but I´m looking forwards to the second part.

Reply
Gio February 27, 2017 - 9:57 am

Barbara, I love my carbs too. There’s no way I’m giving up my rice and pizza for good. But I’m eating them less than I used too and I do feel like I have more energy. My digestion has improved too and my skin looked better. I’ve cheated for a week on holiday (I did exaggerate with carbs and sugar but hey it was a holiday!) and it started showing up on my skin. 🙁

Stefanie will answer all your questions in the second part of the interview. It’s going live today so stay tuned. 🙂

Reply
Barbara February 28, 2017 - 1:35 pm

Hahaha I saw point number 6! To be honest… I don´t think I feel more energetic when I cut out such foods. And I also don´t feel more full. I actually did a 30 day no sugar (including honey) except from fruits diet. And the first thing I noticed was that I´m CONSTANTLY EXHAUSTED. To be fair, I don´t think I increased my food intake so my energy intake wasn´t balanced out. And my skin actually got worst, it really dried out. My nutritionist friend still don´t know what the relationship is. Another friend says that that was all the detox. I don´t know. Maybe. But I like my sweet and although I have cut back on my intake I still eat sweet stuff or whatever my body calls for.

Reply
Gio February 28, 2017 - 8:15 pm

Barbara, that just goes to show that everyone is different, doesn’t it? At the end of the day, I believe that a healthy diet features a bit of everything. It’s just a matter of proportion. We have to eat more of some things and less of others.
I do feel a lot better when I eat less carbs and sugar but I have no intention of becoming a food Nazi and banishing them completely from my diet. Food is mecidine but it is also a pleasure and you shouldn’t deprive yourself of something you enjoy. But if you see that too much on one thing isn’t that good, then cutting back is a good idea. Just listen to what your body tells you – you can’t go wrong.

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