Can Diet Get Rid of Cellulite?
Seeing cellulite on our bum, thighs, stomach or arms can be a blow to our self-esteem, but the truth is cellulite is normal. Nine in 10 women have cellulite at some point during their lives, even women who are fit or have a low body mass.
Let's take a look at what cellulite is, what causes it and if diet and lifestyle can help get rid of it.
What is cellulite and how does it form?
"Cellulite is an irregular dimpling of the skin. It is most often seen on thighs, bottom and stomach," Jessica Spendlove, accredited practising dietitian and athletic performance dietitian, told HuffPost Australia.
"There are mixed opinions on the actual cause of cellulite. It is believed to have a combination of causes including genetics, tissue structure (fat tissue and connective tissue), endocrine (hormonal) abnormalities and poor blood circulation.
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"Certain hormones are thought to play a role, including insulin which can stimulate the storage of fat. High blood insulin levels can occur with excessively high-carbohydrate diets and during pregnancy."
Gender also appears to play a role, with cellulite affecting predominantly women, although it still occurs in men.
According to nutritionist and skin expert Fiona Tuck, cellulite tends to occur on thighs, stomach and hips as "these are the areas in women that are more under the control of hormones -- they tend to be reserved for pregnancy and lactation".
Will cellulite go away with weight loss?
Many of us believe all cellulite will disappear when we lose weight, but unfortunately, it's more complex than this.
"There is limited research available to determine the exact cause of cellulite and therefore a lack of understanding in reduction and treatment," Spendlove said.
"It seems the major factors contributing to cellulite are structural factors related to the connective tissue and fat tissue make-up. Once we develop new fat cells we can't actually get rid of them, but we can reduce their size.
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"It's been suggested that diet and exercise are factors which may play an important role in cellulite formation and treatment. A reduction in total body fat may help reduce the appearance of cellulite."
But, as we all know, every body is different so what might work for one person may not work for another. As Tuck explained, "weight loss does not guarantee a reduction in cellulite -- many slim women have cellulite".
Can diet get rid of cellulite?
Much like exercise, a healthy diet may help reduce the appearance of cellulite but, again, there is limited research available on this, Spendlove explained. In saying this, a healthy diet can help prevent the formation or severity of cellulite.
"Eat a healthy, balanced diet to achieve weight maintenance. Weight gain, particularly a gain in fat mass, will likely worsen cellulite due to increased fat cell formation," Spendlove said.
Here are some dietary and lifestyle tips to help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Credit: Taylor Kiser / Unsplash1. Increase fruit and vegetable intake
To ensure a high intake of antioxidants, phytonutrients and bioflavonoids, Tuck and Spendlove recommend eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables.
"These assist with healthy collagen production, cell protection and assist with the prevention of excessive collagen breakdown," Tuck told HuffPost Australia.
"Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which cause damage to skin cells and can contribute to cellulite formation," Spendlove added.
"Some research suggests foods rich in polyphenols, particularly anthocyanin (found in purple fruits and vegetables) may help in the reduction of cellulite appearance."
Add these to your shopping list: beetroot, purple sweet potato, red cabbage, red kale, pomegranate, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and cranberries.
Credit: Rezel Apacionado / Unsplash
"Adequate amino acids and protein intake are essential for healthy connective tissue and collagen production," Tuck said. "A loss of connective tissue and collagen can worsen cellulite. Choose foods such as gelatin, bone broth, nuts, seeds, poultry and fish."3. Reduce simple, processed carbs
Here's another reason to be mindful of your processed carb intake, including foods such as doughnuts, soft drink, fast foods, cake and lollies.
"An excessively high carbohydrate diet can cause high blood insulin levels and promote lipogenesis (fat formation). This can then result in increased total body fat and subsequently enhance cellulite," Spendlove said.
fcafotodigital via Getty ImagesChoose these types of carbs.4. Go for whole grain carbs
While excessively high carbohydrate diets can affect insulin levels and cause weight gain and cellulite, this doesn't mean we should cut out carbs completely. It's about the type of carbohydrate.
"Carbs are an important part of our diet and by no means should you start cutting them out -- just ensure you're choosing appropriate quantities and types," Spendlove said.
"Choosing small amounts of whole grain low GI carbohydrates consistently such as multi-grain bread, oats, sweet potato and legumes will help stabilise blood sugars and insulin levels."
You can figure out approximately how many grams of carbohydrates your body needs per day here.5. Include healthy fats
"Replace saturated fats with healthy omega-3 fats such as oily fish, flaxseed, fish oils and nuts," Spendlove said. "Healthy fats help with blood circulation. Poor circulation reduces the body's ability to deliver nutrients to skin cells, causing them to cluster together, which can compound cellulite problems."
6. Watch your portion sizes
"Also avoiding or limiting excessive energy intake, which will lead to weight gain, is important," Spendlove said.
"This includes foods which are particularly energy dense (and not nutrient dense) such as alcohol, take away foods, confectionery and sweets."
And don't forget to exercise, not just to (potentially) reduce the appearance of cellulite but for overall health.
"Eating a healthy, balanced diet and participating in regular exercise is important for our overall health, and may also have the added benefit of helping to prevent or improve cellulite appearance," Spendlove said.
"Since impaired blood flow is thought to have a role in cellulite formation, sedentary lifestyles and a lack of exercise may therefore contribute to cellulite. If you aren't moving much, or sit down for most of the day, there is reduced blood flow to the legs and bottom region -- where cellulite usually forms."
And if you still have cellulite after eating well and exercising regularly, remember that it's perfectly normal.
"It is important to note that cellulite affects up to 85-95 percent of post-pubertal women and occurs in both those with a high body mass and those with a low body mass," Spendlove said.
By Juliette Steen Associate Food Editor, HuffPost Australia
This article first appeared in Huffington Post Australia.