These days, it’s common knowledge that the old adage “you are what you eat” is no joke — especially when it comes to your skin.
“But I follow a healthy diet,” I hear you say, “Surely this doesn’t apply to me, right?”
I wouldn’t be so sure.
While New Year’s resolutions are seeing plenty of us tossing out the tin of Christmas cookies in favor of ‘health food’ finds, what many people don’t realize is that their new “diet” is actually doing more harm than good.
Your skin’s collagen levels are hugely affected by what you eat.
Refined carbs, sugar, and processed foods are a big no-no if you want to keep your skin looking fresh and supple, because these are the types of foods that cause inflammation within your body and lead to oxidative stress—the main factor that causes skin’s collagen levels to be damaged.
I’m someone who takes my skin routine seriously. I’ve always carefully watched what I ate. I cleanse, tone and moisturize religiously. And I’ve even made sure to take extra good care of my skin since I started doing laser hair removal. Which is why some of these findings are so worrying to me.
The problem is that many of the “healthy” foods we’ve been reaching for can actually end up being much worse for our skin than we ever imagined.
Let’s go through a few of these “diet friendly foods” that may be sabotaging your health kick; after each section, we’ll point you in the direction of some healthier ways to naturally boost your collagen levels and keep you looking as young as you feel.
Rice cakes were once a staple snack for people striving to cut heavy carbs out of their diet. They’re light, they don’t bloat you out, and they have hardly any calories- perfect alternative to crackers or bread… right?
Rice cakes are made out of simple carbohydrates that your body breaks down extremely fast, thus causing your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. In fact, you metabolize these simple carbs the same way you do sugar: by breaking them down into glucose.
Not only is there virtually no nutritional value to gain from rice cakes, but the broken down glucose will adhere to collagen cells and inflict damage on them.
Whole wheat crackers or Ryvita—something that is high in fiber and contains complex carbohydrates that you’ll metabolize slower and take nutritional value from.
Whole grain cereals and muesli are often hailed as a healthy breakfast option to include in your diet. While they do present a better alternative than most of the refined white options, they’re still more often than not loaded with hidden sugar. Sugar is the enemy when it comes to taking care of your collagen levels, so what can be done?
Overnight oats and homemade muesli are so easy to make, and because you control every ingredient that goes in you can make sure that you’re only consuming ingredients that will work in your favor. Try including some healthy fats like coconut oil or peanut butter to naturally give your collagen levels a boost.
Pre-Bottled Smoothies and Juices
Yes, fresh fruits and veggies are a powerful collagen booster, which is why so many health and beauty conscious folk reach for these ‘healthy’ alternatives to soda.
However, not only are these smoothies and juices are often stuffed full of collagen-damaging added sugar, but the healthy natural sugar in these fruits convert to glucose within minutes of being blended or juiced.
Yup, you read that right.
Even if you blend up a smoothie yourself and store it in the fridge for later in the day, it will already have lost a ton of its nutritional value.
We know that—used in the right way—fruits and veggies are the best way to naturally boost your skin’s collagen levels, and juices are a great way to pack in lots of fruits and veggies in a small serving.
Stick to the homemade varieties, and drink them as soon as you’ve blended them. If you need something to take with you on the go, why not try swapping out the pre-made smoothie for a bottle of homemade infused water? Get creative with cucumber, grapefruit, blueberries, mint, limes and oranges.
Agave nectar may be marketed as a healthier alternative to normal refined sugar, but this plant-based sweetener can often contain higher levels of fructose than high fructose corn syrup.
The result on your skin? Your collagen levels will suffer even more. The broken-down fructose that comes from agave syrup is even more effective at damaging collagen cells than normal sugar.
You’d be surprised how fast your tastes change once you remove the added sweetener from your diet. It might take a bit of getting used to at the start, but you may quickly find that you don’t need it as much as you thought.
If you really can’t stand to spare the sweet tooth, try changing over to unprocessed sweeteners such as raw organic honey or maple syrup. If you’re baking, try making a homemade date paste.