Good fats vs Bad fats for the skin
Our skin needs and indeed thrives on good sources of fat. In fact one of the big issues associated with low calorie diets and dieting in general is that it tends to be low in fat. Long-term diets low in good fats can lead to dry, dehydrated skin and premature aging.
Good fat sources include polyunsaturated omega 3 sources and omega 6 (in moderation) and grass feed or plant sources of saturated fat (yes – its true, saturated fat is not all bad!!!). Now just to clarify the saturated fat issue, we so need some in our diet. Among other functions it provides structure to our cell walls however, too much in general particularly too much of the wrong source of saturated fat is not good. To be specific, the wrong kind of saturated fat comes from processed foods including margarine, packaged meals, processed food and grain fed animals. Ideally, our diets need to be free of excess commercially produced saturated fats and all trans fatty acids. The right kind of saturated fat comes from sources such as organic butter, ghee, coconut oil and grass fed animals.
Where is the evidence for this? Well eating saturated fat didn’t kill our ancestors and there is no solid evidence that low fat diets are beneficial for our health. In fact, during the recent trend for low fat diets and food, rates of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease have soared. One of the big issues with a low fat diet is that we tend to replace fat with sugar because something has to make the food taste good…and lets be real, fat tastes GOOD. Apart from the increase in sugar consumption (which is converted to stored, but not useable fat by the body) most of what we consume in a Standard Australian Diet (SAD) consists of “long-chain” saturated fats, trans fats and an overabundance of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3, all of which can and do have inflammatory effects in the body.
By contrast plant-based medium-chain saturated fatty acids tend to be digested and used rather than stored by the body, producing energy and stimulating the metabolism. Coconut oil is a great example of this and research has shown that the medium-chain triglycerides from Coconut oil tend to resist being stored or used to make larger fat molecules, which means it is a great source of energy and nutrition for the body.
Eating plenty of good fats such as omega 3 and good saturated fats will support skin by reducing inflammation and indeed overall health. The anti-inflammatory effect will reduce the likelihood of free radical damage in the skin and reduce moisture loss by promoting the protective oil barrier.
Monounsaturated fats from avocado and most nut oils are also good for you as they help to maintain the water level in the skin and supply the ceramides and fats that keep the basic structure of the skin intact.
To tip the balance in favour of anti-inflammatory fats instead of inflammatory fats, choose foods rich in omega 3 such as deep-sea fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies), green leafy vegetables, flax oil, chia seeds, fish oils and even grass fed meats in moderation. Also consume foods rich in short and medium chain fatty acids such as organic butter and coconut oil. A diet rich in these foods will help to stabilise the plasma membrane of the skin cells, reducing oxidative damage and therefore inflammation. Use avocado and nut oils for dressings and salads.