Despite the plethora of information available, being ‘healthy’ can be confusing and overwhelming. From low carb to high protein, vegan to raw, gluten free to paleo – these days the names of potential diet routes are as random and tricky to keep up with as the names of celebrity spawn. One of the longest standing diet options is good old low fat, and for many of us reaching for anything labelled with these two tiny words at the supermarket is a huge part of our attempt to get leaner limbs and a flatter tummy – but what about our faces? By now we know that we really are what we eat and that counts for our skin and hair as much as our butt and thighs and more experts are saying a low fat diet s to blame for a prematurely aged face.
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“The biggest secret to long-lasting beauty and vibrancy is to eat fat and I often know when a patient is low fat before asking any questions,” says nutritionist, Christine Cronau. “Low-fat, low-protein diets promote deep wrinkles, sagging, dry skin and swelling. Extreme low-fat diets often result in wrinkles around the mouth and the deep facial wrinkles, not just around the eyes and this can happen much younger than it should.” An expert in the field, Cronau says starving our skin of fat is the fastest way to lose your youthful glow. “Our cell membranes are made mostly of fat, particularly saturated fat, which we tend to demonise the most. In fact, at least 50% of the membrane is made up of saturated fatty acids. If we are low fat, our cell membranes become weak and the cells cannot stay plump and hydrated; they shrivel like prunes as the fluid literally leaks out. We can drink gallons of water and still have dehydrated cells. We need quality, natural fat to keep the cells hydrated and our skin youthful.” To help navigate the maze of eating for anti-aging we asked Cronau to give us the skinny on fat.
Good fats vs bad fats – what’s the deal?
We have all heard the term “good” fats and “bad” fats. But, often we are completely misled about which are which. Good fats are those produced in nature. Butter, coconut oil, animal fats from grass-fed animals. Yes, animal fats. Bad fats are those not produced in nature and are likely marketed as “healthy”, such as margarine, spreads, vegetable oils, canola oil, and anything else that is industrially processed in a factory. The bad fats cause free radical damage in the body, which promotes ageing, and in addition, they damage the integrity of the cell membranes even further. The good, natural fats help keep our cell membranes strong. Just remember, nature doesn’t make bad fats. We do.
Ok so which foods should we be reaching for to get a good does of good fats?
“Forget about skinny lattes or cereal with low-fat yoghurt for breakfast. Start your day with real food like eggs fried in butter (yes, I said it), perhaps a side of free-range bacon or ham with fried spinach and mushrooms. Use butter, have full-cream lattes, enjoy full-fat dairy such as brie and camembert, and avoid anything that says low-fat or cholesterol free! It is likely full of damaged oils, processed carbohydrates, and a ton of sugar, which is also very ageing.
Ah butter really? Won’t that make you fat?
Worried that the extra fat is going to make you fat? Don’t be. This week I was in a café enjoying my full-fat Chai latte. The couple next to me ordered skinny lattes and a piece of cake each. They then added two sachets of sugar to their coffee. They were both overweight, despite the fact that they are consciously avoiding fat. And this is common. Our fear of fat has led us to a high sugar, high carb diet, which is actually the real culprit behind weight gain, modern chronic disease, and premature ageing. I too fell into the low-fat trap when I was younger and spent years yo-yo dieting. But I have been eating full fat for 15 years now, and in those 15 years I haven’t had to think about my weight, I don’t diet or count calories, and, in my mid forties, I look and feel better than I ever did in my twenties.
Why do excess sugar and carbs make us fat?
We can only use or store a small amount of glucose (from sugar and carbohydrate) at any one time. If we eat more than that, we generally have to store it as fat. Simple. And, when we vilified fat, we ended up eating more of the very things that were making us fat.
Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but is considered a ‘good fat’. Please explain!
Coconut oil actually has one of the highest saturated fat contents, around 94%! Why is it good for us? Firstly, saturated fat is not bad for us and never was. The idea that saturated is unhealthy has been one of the biggest health mistakes in history. When we started swapping tasty natural fats for foul tasting, rancid vegetable oils and spreads, we ended up getting sicker and fatter. The science has well and truly exonerated saturated fat; it doesn’t make us fat, it doesn’t cause heart disease, and in fact, is very healthy. Secondly, coconut oil is a wonder food. Not only is it anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-viral, and therefore, fantastic for healing and boosting health, it is also full of antioxidants that protect against free radical damage that causes ageing. For example, age spots are a sign of free radical deterioration of the fats in our skin. Daily coconut oil can help prevent us from developing age spots and other signs of premature ageing.