Good News From The Doctor: Fat Is Good For Your Skin
In case you missed the memo, all that nutritional information we were fed for years about fat being unhealthy was mostly based on bad information and studies skewed by corporations wanting to sell us regrettable products like margarine. How could the perfection of butter be improved upon by this insipid, pale, greasy spread that seems more suited to polishing shoes than eating? What a terrible thing to do to a good piece of toast.
The food pyramid we were constantly shown was essentially upside down, with rice, bread and pasta, simple carbs at the base (eat more) and fish, oils and nuts at the top (eat less). This was a total carb-tastrophe that in the last few years has been soundly debunked by science. In fact, recently a smoking gun was revealed in the form of secret memos between sugar industry executives and scientists plotting to skew scientific data to indict fat instead of sugar as a nutritional terrorist.
Holy wow. The ripple effect of this deception has been far reaching. We now know that excess sugar, not fat, is responsible for a host of health issues including heart disease, fatty liver disease, obesity and diabetes. It’s also a disaster for skin as excess sugar is responsible for the process known as glycation, in which glucose attaches to proteins (collagen) and breaks them down causing wrinkles, sagging and aged looking skin.
Many fats are not only not bad but are actually essential to good health, hence the name, essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs lower bad cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, protect from heart disease, aid brain function, may actually help with weight loss, and are key to healthy, supple skin.
Skin cells are surrounded by a double wall of fat that houses the cell, the phospholipid bilayer. Dietary fats are critical to this layer's thickness and to skin’s plump and healthy appearance. A deficit of dietary EFAs can cause the skin to be dry, inflamed, acne-prone, and slack.
Omega-3 fatty acids have the added benefit of reducing the inflammation that can be the cause dermatitis, rosacea, and acne flare-ups. Good sources of omega 3 include oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, soy, and almonds.
Monounsaturated fatty acids provide nourishing moisture to help skin stay supple and resilient, while also providing protection from UV and free radical damage. Extra virgin olive oil, or just straight olives (sure, even the ones garnishing your martini) are great sources of monounsaturated fat and are also rich sources of antioxidant powerhouse vitamins A and E. Walnuts and walnut oil are another exceptional source of both omega-3s and monounsaturated fats. And our favorite source of monounsaturated fat, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich silky pod of goodness known as the avocado.
Even many saturated fats have come off the naughty list. Coconut oil, long maligned as an artery-clogger, is now listed among the healthiest oils available. Its medium-chain fatty acids are easily absorbed by the small intestine and converted to energy, plus it has immune-boosting, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties that make it beneficial for reducing acne breakouts and other skin irritations.
And while we’re on the subject of fat, drink whole milk. Skim milk is high on the glycemic index, which can aggravate acne and accelerate aging in skin.
Bottom line, for healthy skin, avoid simple carbs and refined sugars and load up on essential fatty acids that strengthen cell walls, plump skin, and provide essential moisture.