Which fats feed your skin?
We all want healthy, clear, youthful skin. The beauty industry would have you believe that what you put on your skin is the key to providing this.
We're bombarded with seductive promises of hyaluronic acid and collagen serums, beauty balms and light reflective pigments. And while there's no doubt that good quality skincare products can improve the condition of the skin if used regularly, it's really what we feed our skin from the inside that works at a deeper level to support skin health, integrity and protection from oxidation.
Antioxidant vitamins and minerals play a role in this, as do certain amino acids. And maybe surprisingly, so do fats.
Fats have traditionally had a bad rep where skin's concerned. The equation of greasy, spotty skin with fatty foods is seen as common sense. And there are certainly types of fats which are no goes for healthy skin - inflammatory trans fats and hydrogenated oils in particular.
But there are other types of fats which can have the opposite effect when they're part of a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. These act by nourishing skin cells, helping to reduce inflammation and keeping skin supple by supporting its elasticity.
Here's a whistle stop tour of fats that feed your skin.
Rich in monounsaturated fats, avocados are high in fat-soluble antioxidants including Vitamin E and carotenoids, which can help protect against oxidative damage, a leading cause of skin ageing. Oxidative damage can be caused by age, the sun, pollution, stress, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and poor diet.
How to eat: Your insta-worthy avocado rose on toast has serious skin benefits! Also eat avocados in salads, smoothies or dips or use the oil for cooking or dressing salads. Avocados also work well in desserts (adding creaminess to chocolate mousses and raw cheesecakes).
NUTS & SEEDS
Nuts and seeds including almonds, chia and pumpkin seeds are sources of essential fatty acids, minerals including Zinc (essential for skin health and integrity) and Vitamin E. Vitamin E supports healthy blood flow to the skin and supports moisture levels and elasticity.
How to store: The oils in nuts and seeds are sensitive to oxidation from heat and light, so store them in glass jars in the fridge to stop them from going rancid.
Coconuts and their oil contain immune system enhancing lauric acid (also found in breast milk), which when converted in our bodies to monolaurin, has antimicrobial properties.
Including coconut oil in your diet may help reduce skin infections and breakouts.
How to use: Coconut oil stays stable up to high temperatures (it has a high smoke point), so is suitable for cooking with without oxidising. You can also add it to porridge, turmeric milks and smoothies to make them extra silky.
Organic, cold pressed, un-refined extra virgin olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean diet. Containing a range of anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins and anti-oxidants which nourish and protect the skin, olive oil is a useful tool for supporting skin condition and protecting against oxidative damage.
How to use: Be aware that olive oil is susceptible to oxidation by heat and light, so is best used cold for dressings or for cooking at low temperatures (eg. slow roasting or gently sweating). Store in a cool, dark place.
Salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and trout are rich in omega 3 essential fats. These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, meaning they reduce the production of inflammatory compounds in the body. Oily fish or supplements providing omega 3 can help to reduce symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne.
How much to eat: Choose wild caught oily fish, and eat 3 portions per week (2 portions if you are pregnant or breastfeeding) to boost your omega 3 levels.