Holidays and food go hand-in-hand. This time of year, we're tempted at every turn by rich, sugary high-calorie foods and drinks, from rum-spiked eggnog to candied sweet potatoes, with plenty of pumpkin pie, fruit cake and chocolate decadence in between. We all know the Thanksgiving-to-New Year's holiday season is one long, tempting food fest designed to make you gain weight. Studies show the average person consumes an extra 600 calories a day during this season, which translates to an extra 6 pounds of weight gain. Unfortunately, your waistline isn’t the only thing that will suffer – some of your favorite holiday foods can have a damaging toll on your skin.
To help us out we learned some ‘Naughty or Nice’ foods from Dr. Aurora DeJuliis, an anti-aging skin expert and founder of The Aurora DeJuliis MD European Medical Spa in Montclair, New Jersey, who believes there's an important connection between what you eat and how you look. She noted, “The intention here isn't to be a Grinch - everyone's entitled to a little indulgence during the holidays. It’s just smart to be aware and make good choices when it comes to taking care of your skin.”
Naughty: Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corns & Syrup: The holidays is a perfect time to indulge your sweet tooth; unfortunately, that Christmas sugar cookie you just ate is also wreaking havoc on the collagen and elastin in your skin, causing the onset of wrinkles. According to Dr. DeJuliis, when you ingest sugar or high-glycemic foods that rapidly convert to sugar your body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose, which raises your insulin levels. Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, cause your insulin levels to spike, which leads to inflammation throughout the body. “Inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles,” says Dr. DeJuliis. “Digested sugar permanently attaches to the collagen in your skin through a process known as glycation. Aside from increasing the effects of aging, glycation can also exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea.”
Nice: Pumpkin: This food is filled with vitamins C, E, and A, as well as powerful enzymes that help to cleanse the skin. Pumpkin pulp is packed full with carotenoids, which are touted for their anti-aging properties. “Carotenoids are known skin-savers due to their ability to neutralize free radicals that fast-forward the aging process,” explains Dr. DeJuliis. But not all pumpkin infused foods are healthy. “Pass on the pumpkin spice latte - they are generally packed with loads of sugar, and not-so-healthy artificial ingredients,” warns Dr. DeJuliis. She recommends pumpkin seeds - this nutty-flavored treat is packed with zinc, an essential in the creation of new skin cells and an aid in protein synthesis and collagen formation. It controls the production of oil in the skin and adds color and brightness to the complexion. Acne is often a sign of zinc deficiency, so adding more zinc-rich foods can help clear up breakouts.
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Naughty: Alcohol: Eggnog, hot toddy, champagne. For many, the Christmas spirit includes holiday cocktails and party punches. Unfortunately, a headache isn’t the only thing you’ll suffer from the next morning - it will severely dehydrate you, making you look more tired and older than you really are. “This affects your skin because your body metabolizes what little water it gets before it has the chance to reach your skin,” says Dr. DeJuliis. “Alcohol can also cause vasodilatation, which aggravates rosacea, and make your skin look dull.”
Nice: Savory Sage: Sage is an ever-popular herb used in cooking many classic holiday dishes such as roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and stuffing. Aside from the taste factor, this small herb also boasts a wide array of skincare benefits. “Along with stimulating cell renewal and increasing blood circulation, sage oil can also reduce redness and improve acne,” says Dr. DeJuliis.
Naughty: Say No to a Cup of Jo: Caffeinated coffees and lattes are a staple during the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, because caffeine is a diuretic, it can also severely dehydrate you. Not only does it dry out your skin, caffeine increases your production of cortisol. More cortisol than necessary accelerates the aging process, thinning your skin. “So if you're drinking a lot of caffeine, remember to stay hydrated,” recommends Dr. DeJuliis. “We need about six to eight glasses of water per day, anyway, but if you're drinking a lot of lattes to get through the holiday madness, you'll need to drink even more water to keep your skin looking healthy.”
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