If you love the white stuff -- we're talking sugar, folks -- your sweet tooth could be making your skin sag, crinkle, and wrinkle before its time. Blame glycation. That's what happens when sugar hits your bloodstream, gloms on to proteins, and forms the aptly named AGEs, or advanced glycation end products. AGEs are bad news for your skin. They damage the collagen and elastin fibers that keep it strong and supple.
While scientists aren't ready to say "sugar causes wrinkles," docs know from observing people with poorly managed diabetes what out-of-control blood sugar does to skin -- and it isn't pretty. Bluntly put, it causes "premature" aging.
That should be extra inspiration to skip the cakes, cookies, and sugary drinks and fill your plate with wrinkle fighters. Here's even more: There is plenty of scientific proof that certain nutrients help nourish the fibers that keep skin stretchy and healthy, says Manhattan dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, RealAge expert and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection. Step right up to the beauty buffet and serve yourself this way:
Cover half -- yes, 50% -- of your plate with fruits and veggies. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in plants act like a dietary highway patrol, pulling over speeding free radicals before they can damage your skin's collagen and elastin. You'll also get loads of vitamin C this way (brightly colored produce is full of it). That's great because C is essential for making new collagen.
Then add extra flavor or crunch by topping your fruits and veggies with nuts, seeds, or a drizzle of olive oil. Nuts and seeds are full of vitamin E, an off-the-charts antioxidant. Since sunlight depletes vitamin E in skin, you need to continually replenish your supply, and the more you get from food -- not supplements -- the better. While that's true in general, if there's any chance you could get pregnant, taking big doses of E is a don't. It's linked to heart defects in newborns.
As for olive oil, its healthy fats help skin cells resist wrinkle-causing sun damage.
- Fill 25% of your plate with lean protein. Think fish, skinless white-meat poultry, beans, chickpeas, lentils, and tofu. All give you the good proteins your body needs to make new skin cells and keep up with its own antiaging skin repairs.
- Fill 25% of your plate with 100% whole grains. As in whole-wheat pasta, brown or wild rice, barley, any breads made from 100% whole grains, and more. Unlike the simple carbs in sugar, the complex carbs in whole grains are the kind your body and skin crave. Instead of triggering blood sugar spikes and forming brigades of aging AGEs, whole-grain carbs are full of fiber, which steadies blood sugar. Plus, the selenium and zinc in whole grains help harness the collagen- and elastin-damaging free radicals.
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