Cutting Back on This One Food Can Actually Make Your Face Look Different—Here's Why

Woman looking at reflection in the mirror

Sugar gets a bad rap, and there's solid reasoning behind it—mostly because we eat way too much of it (in the form of added sugar). According to CDC data, Americans consume an average of 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day. The official recommendation is 6 teaspoons per day for the average adult woman—so the fact that so many of us are consuming so much more isn't ideal.

Added sugars are sugars added during the processing of foods, foods packaged as sweeteners (such as table sugar), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. Sometimes they are hard to identify in packaged foods because added sugars go by many names, including sucrose, fructose, maltose, corn sweetener, agave nectar, malt syrup and molasses.

When thinking about sugar and your diet, it’s important to distinguish added sugars from those that are naturally occurring. Naturally occurring sugars found in milk, whole grains, fresh and dried fruits, and vegetables are rich in important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and do not have the same undesirable health effects as added sugar.

Sugars that occur naturally in foods like whole grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy are absorbed more slowly than added sugars, so you won’t experience the “sugar rush” followed by the fatigue and crash of a rapid drop in blood sugar that added sugars may cause.

How Cutting Back on Sugar Could Actually Change the Look of Your Face

It’s no secret that eating too much sugar in the form of cookies, cakes, sugary beverages and many processed foods adds extra pounds to your waistline. Sweets and drinks loaded with added sugar tend to be high in calories. What’s more, high-sugar snacks and drinks are usually low in nutrients, like protein and fiber, that help you feel full and keep you from overeating.

If you’re filling up on sugary foods alone, you’re more likely to overeat and feel fatigued after eating. Reduce added sugar from your diet and you’re likely to shed pounds and get a big energy boost.

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But in terms of facial appearance, added sugars are also a well-known cause of inflammation and can leave your skin looking puffy and irritated.

Chronic inflammation can lead to skin rashes, redness and swelling (not so great for the face!), as well as a host of other conditions, such as heart disease, autoimmune and inflammatory bowel diseases, some types of arthritis and even allergies. Added sugar—particularly in fructose-containing sweeteners, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, sugar-sweetened beverages and food additives—has a dose-dependent impact on inflammation. So the more you eat, the greater the inflammation in the body.

By skipping or cutting back on added sugar, you’ll not only improve the overall look of your skin and face, you’ll also enhance your health overall.

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How to Quit (or at Least Cut Back) on Added Sugar

Worried you can’t quit the sweet stuff? It’s challenging to go cold turkey, especially if your lifestyle is stressful. Skipping meals and sleep, along with long, stressful days, can make it more likely that you’ll run to the first pint of ice cream you see.

Before you swear off sugar, look at habits that may be driving you to eat more sweets. Managing your lifestyle by reducing stress, getting adequate sleep and stocking your kitchen with whole foods can help you create a healthier relationship with sugar. Here are some tips that can also reign in your sweet tooth:

1. Make smart sweet swaps

One of the best ways to satisfy your sweet cravings is by using fruit, herbs and spices to your advantage. For example, naturally sweet foods include watermelon, bananas, apples, grapes and prunes. You’ll not only enjoy the sweet taste you crave, you’ll also get essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Need a sweet mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up? Skip the sugary doughnut! Instead, opt for something like an energy-boosting Banana, Almond & Prune Smoothie that will satisfy your sweet tooth while providing essential nutrients like potassium, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, filling protein and healthy fats.

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2. Be a savvy sipper

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet. Make water—flat or bubbly—your go-to source for hydration. Eliminate sugar-rich sodas, coffees, teas and sports drinks from your daily routine.

3. Look at labels

Always read the nutrition facts panel and ingredients when choosing packaged foods. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity in the product. If any type of added sugar is among the first few ingredients, you’ll want to limit the amount you eat (nutrition information is also available upon request for most of the foods ordered in restaurants).

4. Plan ahead

Keep your blood sugar from plummeting by knowing what you’re going to eat for the day ahead. Shopping ahead of time and having a general sense of main meals and snacks will prevent you from diving for a giant piece of cake when you get hungry.

Make sure your meals and snacks contain a good balance of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates. For instance, a dinner of baked cod or chicken with a side of asparagus drizzled with olive oil and a ½ cup of brown rice provides a good balance.

For snacks, enjoy a mix of protein and fiber to keep you satisfied. Great snacks to keep on hand include plain, low-fat (or nonfat) Greek yogurt and berries, a handful of nuts and an apple, a slice of whole wheat bread topped with avocado, and hummus and sliced veggies.

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