The High-Low Diet for Radiance
It’s common knowledge that consuming high amounts of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or refined carbs is bad for you. It can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity. But what might be less commonly known is that high-sugar diets create inflammation, which harms tissue, organs, and cellular health. As the largest organ in the body, skin feels (and shows) the effects of your food choices, so it should be no surprise that dialing in your diet can improve your skin health and slow the signs of aging. Radiance begins with a high antioxidant, low inflammation diet.
Inflammation induces oxidative stress and reduces the cells ability to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals react with fatty acids and proteins in cell membranes and impair their function. What that means in terms of your skin is more wrinkles, sagging, and loss of elasticity. Inflammation also aggravates acne.
Free radicals are produced by the cells during normal metabolic processes. But cells also produce antioxidants to neutralize those free radicals. It’s a balancing act between antioxidants and free radicals. But we disrupt that balance when we load up on high-glycemic foods, which promote inflammation. This induces a process known as glycation in which sugar molecules bond to amino acids creating advanced glycation end products (AGES) that break down collagen. The accumulation of AGEs can result in structural changes in the skin, including increased stiffness and reduced elasticity.
If that information hasn’t already ruined your summer picnic plans, here’s a little more to chew on. Certain cooking processes can also lead to higher levels of AGEs, including grilling, frying, and roasting.
Fortunately, the answer is simple. And delicious (in our opinion). Reduce sugars and increase anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods. Eat more fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Prioritize fish and chicken over red meat. Choose foods in their natural state rather than highly processed foods. Whole grains over processed grains. Limit sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat. Embrace your sauté pan.
The Harvard Medical School recommends a diet that includes tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards, nuts like almonds and walnuts, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, and fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.
The Mayo Clinic notes, “the best foods for healthy skin also promote good health overall. Rather than focusing on specific foods for healthy skin, concentrate on a healthy diet in general.”
Foods that cause inflammation
Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
- French fries and other fried foods
- soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
- margarine, shortening, and lard
An anti-inflammatory diet should include these foods:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- nuts like almonds and walnuts
- seeds like chia, flax, and sesame
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
- spices like turmeric and cinnamon
- green tea
- red wine: Up to 5 ounces (140 ml) of red wine per day for women and 10 ounces (280 ml) per day for men
Will it really make a difference?
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found “that subjects with a higher intake of vegetables, olive oil, and monounsaturated fat and legumes, but a lower intake of milk/dairy products, butter, margarine, and sugar products had less skin wrinkling in a sun-exposed site.”
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of a low-glycemic diet on acne. The study found that at 12 weeks, acne lesions had decreased more in the subjects in the low-glycemic group than their counterparts in the control group who consumed a high carbohydrate diet.
Free radicals are like tiny DNA fires. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods are the fire brigade. It just may be that the foundation for a good skin care regimen begins in the kitchen.
In addition to following a healthy diet, you can disrupt the process of glycation, help control the accumulation of AGEs, and decrease inflammation by using skin care products that offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection. Green tea, vitamin A, and vitamin C are disruptors of glycation. Niacinamide, green tea, vitamin E, grape seed oil, witch hazel, aloe, mandelic acid, peptides, allantoin, zinc peptides, and algae are potent anti-inflammatory agents.