Natural beauty expert Carla Oates shares why good fats are good for your skin
While the word “fat” and fats in our diet have garnered negative attention over the years, good fats are really your friends, not foes. In fact, the right fats are absolutely essential for a healthy mind, lean body and beautiful skin.
Eat fat, be slim
Research has shown a healthy high-fat diet can reset your metabolism and prevent obesity. Including good fats in our diets will also help our bodies better regulate blood sugar levels, burn fat stores, increase feelings of satiety and reduce hunger so we are less likely to binge on refined carbohydrates. Healthy fat nourishes your skin from within.
Good fats keep your skin nourished and lubricated from the inside out.
Good fats are essential for healthy skin, hair and nails. They are often loaded with vitamins and free-radical-fighting antioxidants, making them anti-inflammatory. They help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K and phytonutrients such as carotenoids, lycopene and lutein from the other foods on our plate. Good fats also help stimulate collagen synthesis and are required to make hormones. Plus, they keep your skin nourished and lubricated from the inside out.
Types of fat
Of course, not all fats are equal. Some are good, some are best eaten in moderation and some are to be completely avoided.
These fats are solid at room temperature and found in full-fat dairy products including butter and cheese, plus beef and chicken fat. Grass-fed beef, dairy, lamb and turkey contain conjugated linoleic acid, which is an antioxidant that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Grain-fed animals are lower in these beneficial fats and higher in inflammatory fats like palmitic acid, which also raise bad LDL cholesterol. Grass-fed beef is also higher in a type of long-chain saturated fat known as stearic acid, which has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and inflammation.
Cacao butter, found in dark chocolate, is a plant-based source of stearic acid, which is good to know if you’re a chocolate lover.
Cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil is a plant source of medium-chain saturated fat, which is anti-inflammatory and includes anti-microbial lauric acid (also found in breast milk) and may boost metabolism. The message is you only need a little saturated fat, so don’t get more than 10 per cent of your daily calories from it.
Mono-unsaturates are liquid at room temperature and found in olive oil (extra virgin), avocados, oily fish, cashews and macadamia nuts. Avocados also contain skin-loving vitamin E, K, folate and fibre.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is rich in phytonutrients and omega-9 essential fatty acids (also known as oleic acid, or OLA) plus vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, E, K, iron and skin-loving squalene.
These oils are also known as essential fatty acids (EFAs) because we can’t make them. They are also liquid at room temperature. These skin-loving nutrients help you build skin, brain and nerve cell membranes, boost immunity, support heart health, burn body fat, reduce appetite and reduce inflammation. EFAs come in two forms: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3s can be found in marine sources (EPA and DHA or eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) found in fish, marine algae and supplements such as spirulina.
You can also get omega-3 oils in the form of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) from flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, kiwi fruits and walnuts. However, our bodies are not as efficient at converting ALA into the more active forms of EPA and DHA, so these omega-3s are not as potent as marine sources.
You’ll find omega-6 oils in avocados, coconuts, olives, cashews, pine nuts, sesame oil, evening primrose oil and borage oil. Small doses can support your nervous and immune systems and nourish your skin. The sixes are also found in plant oils such as canola, sunflower and soybean oils, which are abundant in packaged foods and very easy to over-consume.
Just remember to eat more omega-3s and less omega-6s (aim for a ratio of 1:3). Omega-3 oils are super for your skin but a little omega-6 oil goes a long way and too much causes inflammation, weight gain and ageing.
Trans fats are polyunsaturated vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to make them solid at room temperature and prolong their shelf life. They damage your skin, flood your body with free-radicals, raise your bad LDL cholesterol, cause heart disease and inflammation, promote ageing and have been linked to cancer. You’ll find them in store-bought mayonnaise and salad dressings, most packaged snacks, biscuits and crackers, margarine, most fast and deep-fried foods. Read labels carefully and avoid these manmade fats at all costs.
How much is enough?
Including a little healthy fat in every meal will help you feel fuller for longer, regulate your blood sugar levels and increase the absorption of many nutrients from the other foods on your plate. Aim for a total of around 40–60g of healthy fat daily and no more than 30 per cent of your total calories. A small serving of fat with each meal could be drizzling a tablespoon of EVOO on your vegetables or adding a quarter of an avocado to your plate, half a dozen nuts, a small portion of oily fish or a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds on your salad.