The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar: The Secret to Healthier Skin

The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar: The Secret to Healthier Skin

Consuming too much sugar can be harmful to the body in so many ways, not just causing obesity and other health issues but also aging our skin prematurely. Glycation, the process by which sugar molecules bind with proteins in our skin, causes the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs damage collagen and elastin fibres, which are responsible for keeping our skin looking firm and elastic. The result is sagging, wrinkles, and other signs of premature aging. Inflammation and oxidative stress caused by sugar in our body can further damage our skin, exacerbating skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema.

Not all sweeteners are the same

Experts recommend reducing sugar intake and replacing it with healthier alternatives. Here are a few clever replacements for sugar that can help maintain a youthful and healthy skin:

  1. Stevia: A natural sweetener with zero calories and zero impact on blood sugar levels, making it a great sugar replacement in recipes and beverages. It is around 500-1000 times sweeter than sugar, so you need a minimal amount
  2. Monk Fruit: Another natural sweetener that has zero calories and zero impact on blood sugar levels, making it a great sugar replacement. Although it is not as sweet as monkfruit, it is still 100-200 times sweeter than sugar.
  3. Honey: A natural sweetener with antibacterial properties and antioxidants that can help improve skin health. However, it is still high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.
  4. Maple syrup: A natural sweetener that contains antioxidants and minerals important for skin health. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar, meaning it won't spike your blood sugar levels as much.
  5. Cinnamon: A spice that can add sweetness to food without adding sugar, and with anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce skin inflammation.
  6. Xylitol, Maltitol and Sorbitol are all sugar alternatives that have nearly the same taste as sugar but do not cause glycemic index increases in you, making them much healthier sweetening options. They also have additional anti-inflammatory and bacteria fighting properties.
Consuming high-glycemic foods can lead to a spike in insulin levels and a burst of inflammation in the body, causing inflammageing and age-related changes in the stem cells of your skin. Experts recommend reducing sugar intake to protect the skin from premature aging and other negative effects of sugar.

So, the next time you're craving something sweet, try one of these healthy alternatives instead of sugar. They can help reduce the risk of aging your skin prematurely and improve your overall health.

*Did you know? South Africans consume between 12 and 24 teaspoons of sugar per day, which is far more than the recommended intake of 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women. Be mindful of hidden sugars in processed foods and opt for healthy sugar alternatives to protect your skin from premature aging.

The Link Between Sugar and Ageing

When you consume high glycemic foods, your body breaks down the sugar into glucose, resulting in a spike in insulin levels and a burst of inflammation in the body. Chronic low-grade inflammation, also known as inflammageing, is associated with age-related changes in the stem cells of your skin. Researchers have discovered a link between the amount of sugar circulating in a person’s bloodstream and how old they look.

Understanding Glycation: The Harmful Process of Excess Sugar

Glycation is a process that occurs when excess sugar in the bloodstream reacts with proteins and fats in an abnormal way. The harmful molecules produced are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which cannot be reversed. AGEs affect collagen production and elastin, leading to rigid collagen and lost elastin, resulting in sagging skin. Accumulation of AGEs in high levels can increase the risk of many diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, high blood pressure, and kidney failure.

Glycation starts to occur in your 20s and shows up on your skin at around age 35. This process leaves you with a range of complaints, including age spots, fine lines, skin dryness, hyperpigmentation, dull skin, uneven skin tone, sagging, loss of subcutaneous fat (especially in the face), inflammation, and even tumours. If you consider the addition of UV exposure, glycation is accelerated as the number of AGEs formed increases.


Eating a well-balanced diet can play a significant role in maintaining healthy skin, and choosing the right snacks can help you achieve that. One approach recommended by dermatologists is to focus on foods with a glycemic index (GI) of 50 or below and to avoid starch altogether. This means that you should aim for slow-release carbohydrates and pulses, which will not cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. This is because high blood sugar levels can trigger a process called glycation, where sugar molecules bond with collagen, leading to sagging and wrinkled skin.

However, this doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite snacks. You can still indulge in delicious treats that are also good for your skin. Here are some healthy snack options that you can try:
  1. Berries: Berries are packed with antioxidants that help to protect your skin by limiting the production of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to skin cells, DNA, and collagen production, leading to premature aging, wrinkles, sagging, and roughness. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are all excellent choices.
  2. Dark chocolate: The darker the chocolate, the better! Dark chocolate and cocoa contain flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants. These can help to prevent photodamage on the skin caused by the sun. Choose chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa to get the most benefits.
  3. Carrots: While not typically thought of as a sweet treat, carrots can be a tasty addition to many dishes. They are rich in antioxidant carotenoids, which can help protect skin against UV damage. Carrots can be eaten raw, cooked, or juiced, making them a versatile snack option.
  4. Greek Yogurt with Honey: Greek yogurt is packed with protein and calcium, while honey is a natural sweetener that also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Combine the two for a delicious and healthy snack.
  5. Apple Slices with Cinnamon: Apples are a great source of fiber, while cinnamon has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Slice up an apple and sprinkle cinnamon on top for a tasty treat.
  6. Frozen Grapes: Grapes are high in antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients. Freeze them for a refreshing and healthy snack that's perfect for a hot day.
  7. Baked Sweet Potato Chips: Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and other essential nutrients. Slice them into thin chips, toss them in olive oil, and bake in the oven for a crunchy and healthy snack.
  8. Chia Seed Pudding: Chia seeds are packed with fiber, protein, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Mix them with almond milk and a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup for a delicious and nutritious pudding.
  9. Nuts: Almonds, Brazil nuts, and walnuts are particularly high in 'good fats', which are essential lipids that create a protective barrier around skin cells and prevent moisture loss. These nuts also contain vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that can help to protect your skin from damage.
  10. Pomegranates: Pomegranates are high in water and rich in ellagic acid, which has been found to reduce wrinkling in response to UV radiation. This fruit is not only delicious but also contains other beneficial compounds that can improve your skin's overall health.
While choosing the right snacks can help you achieve healthier skin, it's essential to remember that good nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle. You also need to protect your skin from environmental factors such as pollution and UV radiation. One way to do this is by using a product like our SkinSpring R3 Formulation, which is formulated with hypochlorous acid. This molecule helps to reduce subclinical inflammation on the skin caused by environmental factors, leaving you with healthier and more radiant skin.

In conclusion, eating a healthy and balanced diet can help you achieve healthier and more radiant skin. By choosing the right snacks, like berries, dark chocolate, carrots, nuts, and pomegranates, you can satisfy your sweet tooth while also nourishing your skin. Combine good nutrition with effective skincare to achieve healthy and radiant skin from the inside out.
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