Sugar, it seems, is everywhere. It’s where we expect it to be (cookies, candy, cakes) as well as places that surprise us. Regardless of the source, sugar is a beauty buster. Perhaps the biggest.Several studies have shown that excess sugar in the diet contributes to increased risk of heart disease, increased triglycerides, diabetes, weight gain and malnutrition.Scary?

Si! But what’s most frightening to beauty buffs is that it also wreaks havoc on your skin.  The more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to have skin that is dull and wrinkly. Researchers think this occurs due to a process called glycation, in which sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins to form something called AGA’s, or, advanced glycation end products.  AGE’s damage collagen and elastin, two structural proteins directly related to how great….or in this case, not so great, your skin is.

The two lists provided here outline the main sources of sugar in the American diet. If either of these lists resembles a daily diary of food choices for you, it may be the perfect time to kick the sugar habit!  After all, you don’t want a bunch of AGEs waging war against your skin, right?

Top 10 sugar foods

  1. Cola
  2. Sweetened cereals
  3. White bread
  4. Candy
  5. Granola/energy Bars—up to 25 grams for one bar
  6. Juice and other sweetened beverages
  7. Bakery Items (muffins, cookies, etc)
  8. Frozen yogurt and ice cream
  9. Canned or dried fruit
  10.  Smoothies—can have up to 60g in a 16 ounce serving

Top 10 foods that surprisingly have a lot of sugar 

  1. Frozen entrée’s
  2. Low-fat or fat-free salad dressing
  3. Crackers
  4. Ketchup and BBQ sauce
  5. Soy milk
  6. Tomato sauce
  7. Flavored yogurts
  8. Fat-free “diet” products
  9. Instant flavored oatmeal
  10. Specialty coffee drinks – large

MORE: Are Low-Fat Foods Making You Fat?

Whether you want to kick the habit completely or just modify your choices, here are a few tips to avoid the sugar high and beauty low.Distract your taste buds

Using flavoring like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla powder on your oatmeal or coffee, or lemon, grapefruit, or mint in your water, can make the sugar reduction process a little more exciting.  Also, go to town on any and all roasted vegetables. The roasting process brings out their natural sweetness and will satisfy your need for sweet.

Just walk it off.

Got a sugar craving?  Studies show that you’re much less likely to crave sweet foods after exercise.  Even just a 30 minute brisk walk would suppress the craving and allow you burn calories to boot!

MORE: Why and How to Break Your Sugar Addiction

A girl has got to have standards.

Next time you’re grocery shopping, use the following as a reference point for your purchases:

  • Main dishes and desserts should contain no more than 4 grams of added sugar per serving
  • Side dishes should contain no more than 2 grams of added sugars per serving

In total, you want to keep you added sugar to less than 24 grams, or 6 teaspoons per day and going even lower than that will improve your health and beauty significantly more!

Keep it real. Using a sugar substitute might create a “bigger” problem.

Recent studies suggest that the use of calorie-free sweeteners may contribute to over-eating and inevitable weight gain. Slowly reduce your sugar intake and you will learn to appreciate sweetness, rather than using sweetener and “trying to get your lunch for free.”

MORE: Your Guide to Sweeteners