HEALTHY HACKS

EAT FRUIT INSTEAD OF PROCESSED SUGAR

Want to slow the aging process? Quit indulging your sweet tooth with food-like products that contain added sugar and instead, reach for nature’s candy to quell your sweet desires.

Added or processed sugar (not the natural kind from fruits and vegetables) attaches to proteins and fats in your body to create harmful molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs interfere with collagen and elastin, two compounds your skin needs to maintain its youthful appearance. Collagen is crucial for your skin’s structural support, while elastin is responsible for your skin’s resilience. Because AGEs prevent efficient collagen repair, you wind up with premature skin aging, and when elastin is affected, your skin elasticity is reduced. The end result? You look older.

Plus, sweets can pack on pounds, and high-sugar diets have been linked to diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. Look for added sugars, which are in 74 percent of packaged goods sold in grocery stores. Sugar has at least sixty-one different names, including agave nectar, cane juice, caramel, corn syrup, dextrose (and anything else ending in “ose”), molasses, and rice syrup. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily added sugar intake to six teaspoons if you’re a woman and nine teaspoons if you’re a man.

Bottom line: when you stop eating as much sugar, you’ll then crave less sugar. How can you cut back your added sugar intake? Whenever you’re craving something sweet, reach for fruit instead. Try grapes, strawberries, and pineapple for that extra burst of sweetness. You can also put frozen fruit, like raspberries and mangoes—add a banana for more creaminess—in a food processor and blend until smooth for a frozen dessert treat.

WEAR LARGE SUNGLASSES (EVEN ON CLOUDY DAYS)

Sunglasses are like sunscreen for your eyes, so if you want to avoid wrinkling from UV damage, invest in a pair and wear them whenever you’re outdoors. Your eyes and the skin around them can be damaged by the same UV rays that cause sunburn on the rest of your body. Eyes that are exposed to UV light can develop cataracts and macular degeneration, both of which affect vision. UV rays can also cause sunburn of the eyelids and eyes, cancers on or around the eyes, red or swollen eyes, and yes, those dreaded wrinkles.

That’s why it’s important to wear UV-protective sunglasses (ask your optometrist if you’re not sure if yours are UV-protective) whenever you’re outside, even on cloudy days. A whopping 31 percent of solar radiation can still pass through clouds and damage eyes. Also, remember that sand, water, and snow can reflect UV rays—at a beach, sand or water can reflect up to 25 percent, while snow-covered surfaces can reflect up to 80 percent—and increase your exposure.

Check that any glasses you wear have 99 to 100 percent UV protection. For more protection around your eyes, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends larger frames (they cover more of your face) and wraparound styles so you get more peripheral shade.

SWAP SODA FOR SPARKLING WATER

You know you need to cut out as much processed sugar from your diet as possible, but where should you start? If there’s one sugar product you should avoid at all costs, it’s soda. What’s one easy way to get the same fizz without the negative skin and health consequences? Sparkling water.

Just one can of soda contains ten teaspoons of sugar, and if you don’t cut calories elsewhere, you could gain up to 5 pounds in a year just from drinking soda. But that’s not all. That soda also causes your skin to sag, because the fructose in soda stimulates a process in your body called glycation. Glycation can break down your skin’s collagen and elastin, leaving you with less elasticity in your skin, sagging skin, and wrinkles. Soda can even cause inflammation that makes acne, eczema, and red skin worse.

Soda also ages you internally. That one can of sugary soda a day could age your immune cells by almost two years, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Drink a twenty-ounce soda every day and you’ve just internally aged an additional 4.6 years. People who drink more sugary drinks like soda tend to have shorter telomeres, which are the caps at the end of your chromosomes. Many experts equate them with that cap at the end of your shoestrings. Without that cap, your shoelaces would unravel. Same with your body: shorter telomeres have been linked to shorter lifespans and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, even added stress.

So say sayonara to soda and get a sparkling water maker. Then flavor it with whatever fruits and veggies you love most.

BOOST YOUR INTAKE OF LEAFY GREENS

Aim for at least two servings a day of greens, which could include arugula, beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens, as well as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. One serving is 1 cup of raw greens, or 1/2 cup of cooked. One note, though: if you’re taking warfarin (known as Coumadin), talk with your physician before you start eating more greens, as the vitamin K in the greens can interfere with warfarin’s efficacy.

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