Updated: Jul 4, 2021
When I tell people what I do, one of the most common responses is "oh I bet you tell everyone to cut out sugar don’t you?"
Just to clarify… I don’t!
Now to be a bit more detailed, as it’s not quite that simple. If I think it’s necessary then I will discuss blood sugar balance with my clients. Unfortunately, for some people, too much refined sugar simply doesn’t agree with their skin. Here’s why…
Carbohydrates are a hugely important food group because they provide our body with glucose, which we need to make energy. However, some forms of carbohydrates take longer for our body to break down than others and as such they release the sugars more slowly. These are foods like:
Wholegrains (such as porridge oats, wholewheat, rye, brown rice, buckwheat and barley)
Beans and pulses (such as lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans)
Vegetables, especially green ones
On the other hand, refined carbohydrates break down quickly leading to a sharp spike in blood glucose. This is typically foods such as white bread, white pasta, white rice and added sugar, often found in processed foods such as breakfast cereals, cakes and biscuits.
Added sugars are also found in foods you wouldn't expect, such as flavoured yoghurts, tomato ketchup and soups
But why does it matter?
Well sugar affects our skin in a number of ways.
It causes insulin to be released… which in normal circumstances is a good thing because it opens up a little door in our cells allowing the glucose to enter. But when our blood sugar levels are too high, insulin levels also spike. This can lead to inflammation… a huge trigger for skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Sugar is not a friend to our gut bacteria. Well not the helpful ones anyway. But the less helpful bacteria thrive off sugar and shifts the balance of bacteria so that the good bugs are crowded out. This is a whole other blog post in itself but for now take my word for it that we don’t want the sugar loving bugs to take over!
It slows down skin repair through the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). An appropriate abbreviation seeing as one outward sign of this is wrinkles. Essentially the glucose attaches to the collagen and elastin proteins in our skin. These are the proteins responsible for keeping our skin healthy, firm and supple. The production of AGEs means that the skin barrier is less effective and as a result loses more moisture leading to dry, itchy skin.
However… sugar is tasty right? And if someone tells you you can’t have something what happens? You want it! You can’t stop thinking about it and as a result you eat more than you would normally… and feelings of guilt creep in.
So I don’t put a blanket ban on sugar with my clients. Instead I encourage healthier swaps and provide plenty of inspiration and recipes. But let's face it, some days you are just going to eat (and enjoy with NO guilt) the refined carbs. So I also give some practical tips to help reduce the blood sugar spikes on these days.
Here’s one of my favourites… Always make sure you have healthy fats and/or proteins with your carbohydrates. These provide the ‘I’m full’ feeling to stop you overeating, but they also slow down the absorption of sugar. In fact, this tip is an every day tip as healthy fats and proteins should have a place in all of your meals and snacks.
If you aren’t sure how your diet stacks up sugar wise and want to get some advice on how to make some healthier swaps then book in for a Diet Review with me. Find out more here