I never paid much attention to what I ate.
If it tasted good, it went into my mouth. Otherwise, I left it on my plate.
That all changed when I came to London. This place is much more polluted than Senigallia, my hometown. Not to mention, how chaotic it is. I’m working more than ever (that’s good, I LOVE my job) while trying to balance a loving relationship and keeping up some sort of social life.
I need energy, yo! And protection against those nasty toxins. All stuff that comes from food. So…
I overhauled my diet. Ate my oats in the morning, my several portions of fruits throughout the day and swapped sugar for honey. I even splurged on Actimel and protein bars. And had plenty of veggies, of course.
I thought I was doing everything right.
Then, I met Dr Stefanie Williams, founder and Medical Director of the Eudelo clinic in London. Her book, “Future Proof Your Skin: Slow Down Your Biological Clock By Changing The Way You Eat” shocked me to the core.
Turns out, most of my efforts were in vain. Heck, some even made things worse! I could tell you, but I’d rather let Dr Stefanie speak.
After sharing what the best and worst foods for your skin are, she’s back to set the record straight on what healthy foods are really healthy and which aren’t, how to eat healthily out and about and what one day in her diet is like:
1. In the first part of the interview, you mentioned sugar is bad for your skin. What about fructose? Is it a good idea to limit your fruit intake and, if so, how?
Don’t just assume that natural sweeteners are a healthy alternative to table sugar and artificial sweeteners. Even though the packet gladly advertises that it contains ‘no artificial sweeteners’, these natural sweeteners might have the same negative effects on your skin that eating several tablespoons of sugar would. Many natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup cause your blood sugar levels to skyrocket just like ordinary table sugar does. Their intake should therefore also be moderated.
The popular agave syrup, which is touted as the saint of all sweeteners is very high in fructose. And, the bad news is that fructose is no better than normal, everyday sugar. In fact, fructose has been shown to cause oxidative stress and lead to insulin resistance, which is terrible for our skin and longevity. And it’s even more powerful than table sugar in creating the dreaded ‘Advanced Glycation End products’ in our entire body. So my recommendation is to avoid fructose-rich sweeteners such as agave syrup. A bit of fructose in its natural form though, ie low-sugar fruit such as blueberries, is, in my opinion, OK, as long as you don’t overdo it.
2. Seeds are said to be tiny nutritional powerhouses but, in your book, you mentioned they have evolved to contain toxins so they wouldn’t be eaten. So, should we eat them in moderation or avoid them completely?
Seeds tend to contain higher levels of phytic acid than nuts and can contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, so go easy on seeds, although I don’t advise to avoid them completely.
Of course, seeds are nowhere near as bad as seed oils, as the fatty acids in our intact seeds are much more protected and seeds also contain natural antioxidants. So while omega-6 rich seeds oils are a complete no from me, unprocessed seeds in moderation are absolutely fine. They are a natural food with many benefits. However, they just shouldn’t be eaten in excess.
Also – there is an easy trick to lower the phytic acid level in seeds. My tip for eating seeds is to soak them overnight, to remove large parts of their phytic acid. For that place your seeds in a glass bowl with filtered water at room temperature. Leave to stand overnight. This essentially initiates the germination process – we are mimicking Mother Nature. Rinse them the next morning and lay out to dry. They have a great crunchy consistency when soaked.
3. After reading your book, I’ve realised that a lot of foods that are touted as healthy aren’t that healthy after all! Can you set the record straight on these super foods once and for all and whether they should be part of our diet or not?
Quinoa isn’t as great as it’s reputation, in my opinion. It contains for example natural toxins called saponins. Saponins are soap-like substances produced by the plant as a natural pesticide, which may lead to tiny holes in our gut cells. However, although quinoa is by no means ideal, at least it is better than traditional grains, as they have a lower glycaemic index/load, are gluten-free and are more nutritious, containing higher contents of amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Ready made smoothies are, in my opinion, glorified sugar water. While it’s fine to have whole fruits in moderation, because they contain fiber and have a much lower GI, you should avoid drinking fruit juices, even home-pressed ones. And the same goes for fruit smoothies (homemade vegetable smoothies are fine).
For various reasons I am not keen on diary milk and tend to have unsweetened almond milk instead. However, if you decide to drink diary milk, I would go for organic whole fat, as full fat versions contain less milk sugar (lactose) and have a lower GI (glycaemic index), so will have a less pronounced influence on your blood sugar and insulin levels. Interestingly, a study also confirmed that skimmed milk had a worse influence on acne, compared to full fat versions. However, even better are fermented versions such as kefir. This is fermented milk with billions of live bacteria. Fermentation of dairy products also consumes most of the milk sugars and reduces IGF-1 (a growth factor) content, which is good. It also improves their digestibility by breaking down part of the casein protein.
Honey makes our blood sugar level go up just as table sugar does and should therefore be used in moderation only. Having said that if I had to choose either table sugar or honey (‘gun to my head’ type of situation, you know what I mean…), I would certainly choose honey, because it contains some bioactive ingredients other than pure sugar. However, its effect on our blood sugar level (and teeth…) remains a problem.
Protein bars fall under the no-processed-food rule. Anything produced in a factory is likely to be a ‘fake food’ and I would try to go for natural whole foods rather than something industrially produced in a wrapper.
Oats are starch parcels that I choose not to eat too much either. Having said that – they are somewhat better than traditional grains, as they have a lower glycaemic index/load, are gluten-free and are more nutritious. However, they are vastly overrated in my opinion – they are certainly not a superfood.
Bananas are tropical fruit high in fructose sugar, so intake should be moderated. Better fruit chooses would be berries or stone fruit such as apples and pears.
Actimel (& Other Probiotic Drinks)
Factory made probiotic drinks such as Actimel are often full of sugar and I would not buy them. I make my own kefir at home (try it, it’s really easy!), which contains less sugar and more good bacteria!
4. What are the best places to buy skin-friendly foods at, especially if you’re on a budget? Organic vegetables and grass-fed meat can be expensive!
Yes, unfortunately a FuturApproved way of eating is more expensive than eating processed junk. However, it’s all about setting priorities (what can be more important than your health?) and trying to buy non-processed and organic as much as you can afford. Simply try to make good chooses.
5. Eating out can be very challenging when you’re on a skin-friendly food plan. What type of restaurants / fast foods chains do you recommend and what should we look for on the menu?
Yes, it’s challenging, but it’s slowly getting better actually. With regards to fast food/lunch, Pret-A-Manger now has some good chooses for example. In restaurants just go for high quality fish or meat with two vegetable dishes on the side. However, it is of course true that homemade food is always best, as you know exactly what’s in it, so for lunch I suggest preparing something to take into the office, as I do.
6. What advice would you give to someone who understands the importance of cutting some foods out of her diet but isn’t ready to give up on her fave dishes, yet? For example, this Italian doesn’t want to live without pizza. I know I could cut it out of my diet completely, but I don’t want to give it up for good – it’s too delicious! Am I doomed to ugly, wrinkled skin before my time?
No, you are not doomed! Just try your best – every good choice is a step in the right direction, but still enjoy life, so if you have the occasional ‘bad food’, don’t beat yourself up. We are all human.
7. Finally, what’s a day in your diet like?
For breakfast I might have full-fat yoghurt with nuts and blueberries or a home made smoothie with for example kefir, cucumber, spinach, celery, chia seeds and a whole avocado in it.
For lunch I take a (very substantial) salad into work (for example a salad with three eggs or so, not just green leaves) or make a soup with my newest gadget, a soup maker, before work (literally only takes 10min hands on work, then the machine does the rest, while I get ready). I like to use lots of coconut cream in my soups, as they keep me full longer.
For dinner it’s usually fish or meat with two vegetable side dishes.
Thanks again, Dr Stefanie!
Want to know more about how your diet affects your skin and what to eat to stay young and healthy? Then, don’t forget to visit Dr Stefanie’s website, FuturApproved.com.
You can also get her book, “Future Proof Your Skin: Slow Down Your Biological Clock By Changing The Way You Eat” on Amazon and keep up with Dr Stefanie on Twitter.
So, is your diet as healthy as you thought?