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one green planet

Thanks to diabetes research, we have now accumulated more information on how refined sugars affect the body. Besides elevating your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, or obesity, it can also negatively impair your skin.

Sugar seems to be added to everything these days and it can sometimes be hard to avoid. If you want to discover why its consumption is detrimental to the skin, and how to replace sugar in your diet with naturally sweetened alternatives, keep on reading!

1. How Sugar Affects the Skin

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Refined sugars primarily impair the skin in two major ways. Firstly, processed sugar can lead to premature aging, and secondly, it can also produce inflammation.

Premature Aging

Excess sugar consumption can lead to premature aging, including symptoms such as dehydrated, dry skin, dark circles under the eyes, and even wrinkles. This is because when sugar enters the bloodstream it sets off a reaction called glycation. Glycation is a non-enzymatic reaction that causes sugars to attach to proteins and produce dangerous molecules known as advanced glycation end products. These molecules are damaging to the skin because they warp proteins like collagen and elastin.

Collagen essentially serves as the framework for the skin, keeping all components of the body such as muscles, tendons, and bones dynamically connected. Elastin, on the other hand, keeps your skin tight, yet pliable. It provides elasticity to your skin.

When advanced glycation end products are produced, it distorts and stiffens elastin and collagen proteins therefore causing your skin to sag and wrinkle. Glycation can also make skin conditions like rosacea and acne even worse!

The more sugar you consume, the faster your skin begins to age.


When ingest large quantities of sugar, or high glycemic foods, your body rapidly converts these molecules into glucose, causing your insulin levels to spike. Dr. Perricone, dermatologist and expert in anti-aging strategies, says that eating a lot of sugar causes a “burst of inflammation” throughout your body. When the immune response is triggered, hormones called cytokines and chemokines are released. These inflammatory hormones set the immune system off skelter and release free radicals and chemicals that can damage the skin.

If you eat a lot of sugar, it is also possible that you will develop an insulin resistance. This can lead to dark spots on areas like the neck, or other creases of the body.

2. Healthier Alternatives to Sugar

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Stacy Spensley/Flickr

If you have a sweet tooth, but care about the well-being of your skin, there are still tons of refined sugar-free options! Natural sugar alternatives are still delicious, but completely guilt-free. Some of the best alternatives are:

  1. Mashed bananas, or banana puree is naturally sweet, especially when overly ripe, and they are a great addition to baked goods. They are also loaded with nutrients like potassium and make for an excellent egg substitute.
  2. Maple syrup is a delicious sugar alternative because it is low on the glycemic index and is rich in antioxidants. It’s also a great vegan substitute for honey!
  3. Stevia is a natural sweetener that is native to South America and has been used for hundreds of years to sweeten recipes. It also is even sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way!
  4. Dates are natures candy and can be made into a paste to sweeten recipes. They taste exactly like caramel and are an excellent binder and sweetener for energy ball recipes!
  5. Blackstrap Molasses is often used to sweeten recipes and is highly nutritious. It is loaded with iron, potassium, copper, selenium, vitamin B6.
  6. Coconut Sugar is also low on the glycemic index, but rich in minerals! Coconut sugar is cultivated by collecting the sap from coconuts and then heating the sap. What remains after evaporation, is coconut sugar!

3. Sugar-free Vegan Recipes for Clear Skin!

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Cups/One Green Planet

It’s a piece of cake creating desserts that are sinfully sweet, without causing your insulin levels to spike or releasing molecules that are damaging to the skin. Some of the best sugar-free recipes or treats that are naturally sweetened can be found on our Food Monster App.

To help get you started, feel free to try these Simple Coconut Macaroons, Flourless Banana Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting, Mood-boosting Berry Vanilla Crumble Cake, Chocolate Ice Cream, 5-Ingredient Protein White Chocolate Bars, or these Raw Tiramisu Mini Tarts.

For more sugar-free recipes and tricks, we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead Image Source: Uwe Hermann/Flickr 

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