Why your skin (and your body) needs fat

Diana Milnes | 20 April, 2021


          
            Why your skin (and your body) needs fat

Your skin is a reflection of your health inside and out. If you want to have naturally glowing skin you’ll need to have a healthy, balanced diet. 

A balanced diet includes all three macronutrients - proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

In this article, I'll explain why you need to eat fats for healthy skin, how much is enough, and what kind of fats we should have in a balanced eating plan. I'll talk about proteins and carbohydrates in future articles.

For years, health experts told us that a low-fat diet was the gateway to health. All fats were the enemy, linked to obesity, and cardiovascular and other diseases. We now know that healthy fats don't make us fat.

Fat is one of the three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and protein, that our bodies need to function at optimal levels.

Healthy fats are essential for our health and well-being.

The good fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. They help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

They provide us with essential fatty acids (EFAs). Essential means we must get them from our diet as our body does not manufacture them. EFAs support our brain function and the healthy growth and development of our body.

The fats to avoid are trans fats and saturated fats, (bad fats). These fats are in processed and packaged foods. They have undergone a chemical process (hydrogenation) to extend their shelf life.

Essential fatty acids protect your heart, keep your skin and hair soft and supple, lubricate your joints, protect your nervous system, and protect cell membranes from inflammation. EFAs deliver vitamins A, D, E, and K to your cells and are also are a great source of energy.

EFAs keep your skin hydrated and protect and build the precious lipid layer that surrounds every skin cell membrane. The anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce skin blemishes and irritation.

Remember to eat good fats in moderation. All fats are energy dense at 38 kilojoules a gram. Expert guidelines suggest that 20-30% of your daily energy intake (kilojoules) come from fat, with no more than 10% coming from saturated fat. (See below for how much fat you need each day).

A healthy skin diet

Unprocessed, whole foods contain EFAs and the nutrients that support glowing, healthy skin from the inside out. You'll also lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other lifestyle chronic diseases.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids are building blocks of cell membranes. They help prevent skin dryness and maintain healthy and hydrated skin.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids nourish your skin, are essential for radiance, and add softness to your complexion.

For healthy skin and a balanced diet include fat from both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources.

Sources of monounsaturated fat include:

  • avocados
  • almonds, cashews and peanuts
  • plant-based oils - canola, olive, peanut, soybean, rice bran, sesame and sunflower

Sources of polyunsaturated fat (both omega-3 and omega-6) include:

  • fish
  • tahini (sesame seed spread)
  • linseed (flaxseed) and chia seeds
  • soybean, sunflower, safflower, and canola oil
  • pine nuts, walnuts and brazil nuts

Practical tips to make these nutrients a part of your healthy diet:

  • Include oily fish in your meals, twice a week
  • Top your salad with a few slices of avocado or a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
  • Add a handful of nuts or seeds to your breakfast cereal for a healthy start to your day. Try walnuts, almonds or ground flaxseed.
  • Always cook with vegetable oils such as olive or grapeseed oil.

How many grams of fat should you be eating?

Fat should make up 20-30% of your daily energy intake (kilojoules), with 10% or less from saturated fat.

Estimate your ideal daily energy intake using this handy tool.

Then multiply that number by the recommended percentages to get a daily range of fat kilojoules. Then divide that by 38 (the kilojoules in a gram of fat).

Here's an example based on an 8870 kilojoule a day intake:

  • Multiply 8870 by 0.20 (20%) to get 1774 kilojoules and by 0.30 (30%) to get 2661 kilojoules.
  • Multiply 8870 by 0.10 (10%) to get 887 kilojoules.

How many fat grams is that? There are 38 kilojoules in a gram of fat, so divide the number of kilojoules by 38.

  • Divide 1774 kilojoules by 38 to get 46 grams. Then divide 2661 kilojoules by 38 to get 70 grams.
  • Divide 887 kilojoules by 38 to get 23 grams.

So if your daily energy intake is 8870, your target range for total fat is 46 to 70 grams a day. Of that, saturated fat should make up no more than 22 grams.

Good to Remember

  • Being on a low-kilojoule diet to lose weight can reduce your fat intake, which affects your skin. Make sure that your menu always includes healthy fat options.
  • Foods high in unsaturated fats keep you feeling full longer.
  • Healthy, glowing skin comes from the inside out. Balance your diet with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.

In the second article of this 3-part series about macronutrients I'll be sharing some good news about carbohydrates. Join my VIP list below to get it delivered straight to your inbox.