Eat smart, look great?

Can the way you eat and drink really make a healthier, more vibrant you? Read on to find out the truth about some popular nutrition myths

Downing eight glasses of water a day will give you glowing skin

Background To keep your body running smoothly, you need to stay well hydrated. There’s no solid scientific evidence to support the eight-glass-a-day rule, but water does keep all organs healthy and flushes toxins from the body, says Connecticut naturopath Alan Logan, author of The Clear Skin Diet. Water is the best choice, Logan says, but other low-sugar beverages also contribute to your body’s needs.

Bottom line Drinking water in any amount will not directly affect your skin — for better or for worse — says Sandy Skotnicki-Grant, a Toronto dermatologist. “It’s like most things with your diet: If you eat well and drink plenty, your body will feel better, your systems will be healthier and that will reflect in your skin.”

Eating breakfast helps you lose weight

Background The body has a rhythm. When you wake up, you need to kick-start your metabolism, which burns the most calories and fat during the first half of the day, then slows down in the evening. Not only does noshing in the early hours help you feel more focused, it also takes advantage of that fat-burning rhythm, says Christine Manning, owner of U Weight Loss Clinic in Woodbridge, Ont.

Bottom line “People who skip breakfast have increased risk for weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes,” says Toronto naturopath Natasha Turner, author of The Hormone Diet. She recommends eating within an hour of rising to stimulate your metabolism. But put down that cinnamon bun. A high-sugar breakfast will actually increase your sugar and carb cravings later, Turner says. Instead, start your day with protein (such as eggs, cottage cheese or a protein smoothie) for greater fat loss and appetite control. “It will keep you fuller longer and will also trigger the hormones that burn fat through the day.”

Snacking after 7 p.m. is a surefire way to put on weight

Background Your body is more likely to store those late-night snacks as fat, rather than use them as fuel because of your metabolism’s natural rhythm. To make matters worse, when we’re mindlessly munching in front of the TV, “we don’t realize how much we’re eating and we tend to choose unhealthy foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt,” says Vancouver registered dietitian Heather McColl.

Bottom line Avoid eating two or three hours before you hit the hay, to maintain — and even drop — your weight. Your body actually burns fat while you rest, but dining within that window can derail the process. If you must eat at night, consider that protein helps your body repair and rebuild and healthy fats keep you satisfied and curb cravings. Carbs, on the other hand, could store as fat, Manning warns. “A lot of my clients who eat a large meal at night find they’re exhausted by morning.”

Junk food (or a poor diet) doesn’t cause pimples

Background In the late ’60s and early ’70s, two flawed studies showed no relationship between chocolate and acne. But despite their poor design, the studies were held up as proof that there’s no relationship between diet and acne. Several updated studies now show the opposite to be true.

Bottom line There is indeed a direct link between diet and acne. To help clear skin and minimize fine lines and wrinkles, Logan recommends three food groups: colourful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to boost the skin’s defences; high-fibre carbs to balance blood sugar and block the acne process; and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish) to diminish redness, swelling and oil production.

Eating fat makes you fat

Background Calories cause weight gain, and since fat has a lot of calories, it gets a bad rap. The anti-fat frenzy of the early ’90s, when supermarket shelves bulged with fat-free snacks, only made matters worse.

Bottom line Just like protein and carbs, fat is an essential part of our diet. When eaten in moderation, it can actually help you lose weight. “Fats help stabilize your blood sugar and make you feel full and satisfied,” says Turner, signalling to your brain that it’s time to put down the fork, and curbing cravings for other foods — a huge part of weight loss. Eating the right types of fats makes all the difference, says Manning, so steer clear of trans fats and limit saturated ones, such as in red meat, cheese and full-fat dairy products.

Did you know?

The more sleep you get, the more appetite control you’ll have the next day. Too little rest can derail the production of leptin, a hormone released during sleep that helps fight cravings. “Sleep-deprived people tend to give in to their cravings and eat more during the day,” says Toronto naturopath Natasha Turner.

Beauty boosters

Perfect Skin, Genuine Health

The promise Reduces inflammation and sebum production, improving the look of acne-prone skin. $27–$50, health stores and Shoppers Drug Mart

The ingredients EPA concentrate from omega-3 fatty acids, EGCG, an antioxidant from green tea, chromium and selenium

The verdict “Combined with some dietary changes (like avoiding dairy), my breakouts have lessened. I also like that I’m getting omega-3 benefits — and there’s no fishy aftertaste.” – Kate, 37

Imedeen Time Perfection

The promise Reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and age spots, leaving skin brighter. $95, salons and Shoppers Drug Mart

The ingredients Biomarine complex, lycopene and grapeseed extract

The verdict “My breakouts — particularly the cystic acne I experience around my period — have definitely eased up. My skin feels well moisturized, without the usual dry patches.” – Leslie, 29

Phytophanère Hair & Nails, Phyto

The promise Strengthens limp hair and weak or brittle nails. $80, salons and Shoppers Drug Mart

The ingredients B vitamins, essential fatty acids, vitamin E and other nutrients

The verdict “After the birth of my first baby, my hair thinned out considerably. But now it feels and looks a lot fuller, and my dry nails (from all that post-diaper-change handwashing) are less prone to breaking.” – Jessica, 32

PerriconeMD Skin & Total Body Supplement

The promise A 30-day program designed to support the immune system and improve cognitive skills and the look of skin. $140, sephora.com

The ingredients Antioxidants, omega-3s, calcium and magnesium

The verdict “My skin looks great and I feel healthy, but the most notable change has been less of the mild achiness I usually feel in my neck and knees. I haven’t needed the medication I typically take for the discomfort.” – Susan, 59

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