Essential Fatty Acids For The Skin
Fat Is Not The Enemy
Whether it’s on your body or in your food, fat has become something of an obsession in recent years.
It seems that everyone from government health groups to the media has something to say on the subject of fat and yet the fact remains that there is much confusion about this subject than ever!
Fat in the diet is crucial as it provides a concentrated form of energy however not all fats are equal. When it comes to food there are ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats and it is important for us to know the difference.
Generally the Western diet contains too many foods that are high in saturated fats and it is this type of fat that is bad for our health, our skin and our bodies.
Example of saturated fats include:
- Whole milk and whole milk products
- Fatty cuts of meat
The effects of too much fat in the diet are well documented and most people know that if we eat too many foods that are high in saturated fats it can lead to health problems such as heart disease and to obesity.
An excess of bad fat in the diet can also lead to dull, unhealthy looking skin and may exacerbate problems such as oily skin and acne.
Foods that contain unsaturated fat however should be included in the diet for our overall health and especially for the maintenance of smooth, glowingbjectre comi, youthful skin. This type of fat is the ‘good’ type of fat and falls into two categories.
Monounsaturated fat can be found in foods such as avocado, olive oil and sesame oil.
Polyunsaturated fat is found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and soya beans.
These unsaturated fats provide a rich source of essential vitamins and the ultimate skin-friendly nutrients known as essential fatty acids or EFAs.
Essential Fatty Acids For Skin
Essential fatty acids form a vital part of the structure of every single cell membrane in your body and help to maintain the tone, moisture levels and smoothness of your skin.
There are two main types of essential fatty acids – Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Omega 3 oils are found in walnuts, linseeds and oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon.
Omega 6 oils can be found in seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower, nuts and some pulses and vegetables.
Including more of these helpful EFAs in your diet can radically improve your skin and help to prevent other health conditions.
Many people take supplements of fish oils to get adequate levels of Omega 3 oils in their diet or evening primrose or borage oil for Omega 6 oils.
This is because essential fatty acid deficiency is common as it can be difficult to get enough of these skin-friendly nutrients into your diet naturally on a regular basis.
The Consequences Of A Low Fat Diet
As we age it becomes more and more difficult to lose weight and at this point many men and women begin to cut out fat from the diet. This can also happen as a response to all the bad press fats get when it comes to the health of our hearts.
People become more concerned about their overall health as they age however it’s not just older people, many younger people when wanting to lose weight will cut fats completely from their diets.
This is a big mistake.
If you are consuming too much saturated fat then reducing your intake will help you to maintain a healthy weight, however removing all fat from the diet, including the healthy ones can lead to essential fatty acid deficiency.
EFAs are needed by every cell in the body as the help to protect the lipidic barrier between each layer of your skin thus helping to reduce the amount of water lost from the cells.
They also play a vital part in building healthy collagen and elastin fibers that help to keep the skin plump and smooth whilst also preventing wrinkling, drooping and sagging.
Essential fatty acids also help to keep your nervous system healthy too, so they really ARE an important part of your diet.
Diets that drastically reduce all fats, good and bad, can lead to all kinds of problems.
Fatty acid deficiency symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Flaky skin
- Premature wrinkles
- Poor skin texture
- Cases of eczema and psoriasis worsening
- Brittle hair and nails
- Vaginal dryness
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Persistent coldness in the hands and feet
- Viral infections
- Arthritis (in cases of severe deficiency)
Beautiful Skin Needs Fat
There’s no way around the fact that our bodies need fat, however it is important to make sure we get the right kinds of fat, the good fats, and avoid the bad fats.
Vibrantly healthy and glowing skin is simply NOT achievable if we do not get enough essential fatty acids in our diet.
Another simple truth is that a diet that is devoid of all fat becomes dull and unappealing. Fat helps to make food more palatable and helps to keep us feeling full for longer.
Essential Fatty Acids For Smooth, Glowing Skin
Try to increase your intake of essential fatty acids naturally by eating more oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados. If this is not possible you may need to take a supplement.
You could try adding a tablespoon of unrefined olive oil to salad dressings or sauces that you would pour over pasta, rice or potatoes.
Or you could sprinkle a blend of seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame over salads, soups or sauces.
Around 4 – 6 weeks after you make an effort to include more EFAs in your diet you should see an improvement in the skin of your face and body.
It should seem softer, smoother and less dry. Noticeable dry areas like the elbows and knees should become less apparent.
EFAs can also help to prevent and delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles but it is important that as you up your intake of essential fatty acids you also reduce your intake of saturated fats.
This is because saturated fats will cancel out the good effects the EFAs have on your skin.
How To Get The Best Out Of Fats And Oils
The following tips will help you to understand how to incorporate fat into your diet for optimum health.
1. Choose the highest quality fats and oils you can find, unfortunately this is one area when it may be necessary to spend a bit more as the cheapest fats and oils tend to be the least healthy.
Cold pressed oils may be more expensive but they are far more nutritious. It is worth checking out your local health food store because they are more likely to stock a wider variety of healthy oils.
2. Buy oils in small quantities and use up well before the use by date. Oils lose nutritional value and become rancid if they are kept for too long.
3. Store oils in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. A cool cupboard is ideal. Oils that are subjected to light and heat will become rancid at a faster rate.
If you can, buy oils in dark glass bottles rather than clear glass or plastic. Always replace the cap of your oils securely
4. Never use polyunsaturated oils for cooking, save them for salad dressings or mayonnaise. The health benefits of polyunsaturated oils are altered for the worse when they are heated.
5. Cook with extra virgin olive oil, as it is more stable when heated and less prone to becoming rancid. However make sure you store olive oil in a cool, dark place as you would with other oils.
6. Avoid deep-frying your food. Grill, poach, bake, stir-fry or casserole for healthier meals.
7. Avoid foods that are labeled as low fat. They may sound healthy but often contain lots of nasty preservatives or additives, check the labels of these foods and avoid if they contain unnatural sounding ingredients.
8. Avoid spreads that contain hydrogenated fats. A small amount of natural butter or spreads from health food stores that are non-hydrogenated make a better choice.
9. Cut down your intake of red meat particularly ‘fast food’ or processed types of red meat such as burgers, sausages, bacon and processed meats.
10. Try to avoid snacks like cakes, ice cream, cookies, potato chips and chocolate, as they are all high in the wrong kinds of fats.
Only enjoy them as an occasional treat or try dark chocolate that contains over 70% cocoa solids if you fancy a sweet treat.