I’m trying to reduce my sugar intake, does that mean I have to avoid fruit?

Personally I can’t think of a more appropriate snack option. Fruit is quick to grab, highly portable and full of important vitamins and minerals. They come from plants, they’re wholefoods and in my eyes, the best form of ‘fast food’ anyone could eat. I mean what is there not to love?

While fruits do contain sugar, it is a natural sugar in the form of fructose. In recent years, the focus on sugar has ballooned and there is much evidence pointing towards the harmful effects of sugar on disease progression as well as the many different working systems of the body. So much so, that people are now applying this concept to fruits.

The idea that fruit is a bundle of sugar needs to be unpacked. Yes, it does have sugar in it, but (1) its not refined or processed and (2) it is coupled with fibre, water, vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants and more, which all help to optimise our overall health and wellbeing.

It is important to remember folks that not all sugar is created equally. Lets compare one medium apple, which has 25 grams carbohydrate and 95 calories (I am not an advocate for calorie counting methods, but for those that do) with one Tim Tam which has 8 grams carbohydrate, the same amount of calories, zero vitamins and minerals and more sodium and non-beneficial forms of fat than the former. You cannot tell me that fruit isn’t the better choice here!

Of course certain groups of people need to be wary of their fruit intake, namely those with fructose intolerance or diabetes.

But at the end of the day, the moral of the story is that fruit is extremely nourishing and has its place in our everyday diet and for most of us, there is absolutely no reason to avoid it.

The Australian dietary guidelines recommend two serves of fruit daily. This can include one medium serve such as a banana or pear or two smaller serves of fruit such as nectarines or a mixed fruit salad.

I’m trying to improve my overall skin health, are there specific foods that I should be focusing on?

There is such strong evidence toward the effect of food choice on our complexions so much so that skin health is often one of the biggest motivations for one to improve their dietary intake and lifestyle activities. There are a number of nutrients, which play vital roles in the skins health, but for now, I’ll just focus on a few of my favourite ones.

Omega 3 rich foods exert anti-inflammatory benefits. The modern day Western diet tends towards being very unbalanced in terms of our omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of intake. This plays a large role in the prevalence of skin conditions such as acne vulgaris and psoriasis. Therefore, increasing omega 3 fatty acid intake is an imperative part of the diet when it comes to getting that glowing complexion. High levels of intake act to reduce systemic inflammation and can also reduce the risk of disease progression for acne and other skin related conditions by reducing insulin-like growth factor (which is implicated in androgen precursor hormone conversion – increasing the risk of acne) and preventing the hyperkeratinisation of the sebaceous follicles within the skins surface (another critical element in the pathogenesis of acne). Foods to include are oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and rainbow trout. Other plant based omega 3 rich foods include legumes, walnuts, flaxseed and dark leafy greens.

Vitamin C has long been known for its role in the regulation of collagen, an important structural protein in the skin. Increasing vitamin C intake can help with skin appearance as well as improving the skins integrity. Good sources include red/yellow capsicum, red cabbage, citrus fruits, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, dark leafy greens, strawberries and fresh herbs such as parsley, basil and thyme. Vitamin C is sensitive to heat however, so if cooking these foods, cook lightly or alternatively, eat them raw.

A little fun fact…Vitamin E is the most abundant of the fat-soluble vitamins found in the skin and it is secreted through the oily substance, sebum, on the surface of our skin. Vitamin E acts as a potent anti-inflammatory and is also involved in immune function. Foods rich in Vitamin E also act to prevent and reduce acne-related scarring. Good sources include almonds, sweet potato, avocado, spinach, sunflower seeds, capsicum, kale, silverbeet and broccoli.

The role of zinc in the body is massive as it plays an important role in many physiological functions. In terms of the skin, zinc improves wound healing, exerts anti-inflammatory benefits and also improves the structure of the skin’s proteins and cell membranes. Dietary sources of zinc are best absorbed from animal sources with shellfish, organ meats and red meat being the best options. Plant-based sources such as nuts and seeds are also high in zinc, although the nutrient is less bioavailable as it is bound to phytates. To get the most from these sources, it is best to soak them prior to consumption.

Of course, there are many more skin aiding nutrients that we could discuss…but I could harp on all day if I didn’t draw a line somewhere. The bottom line is that the diet can help optimise skin health if fed the correct foods.

Thanks for reading x