Your New Favorite Fat
Did you know that fat can be healthy? A lot of people avoid fat when they’re trying to be health-conscious, but it’s actually an important part of a healthy diet and some fats are extremely good for you.
Even if you’re aware of healthy fat as a concept, there may be some specific fats that you haven’t heard about. Squalene may be one of them.
According to WebMD, “fats are an important part of a healthy diet: They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel.”
Fats can be difficult to understand. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher which fats are good for your body and which fats are bad.
You definitely want to eliminate all artificial trans fats (the naturally occurring trans fats in grass-fed meat and dairy are ok and are usually only found in small quantities anyway). These are bad for your cardiovascular health. You also need to keep saturated fat levels in moderation, though some is good for you too.
You’ve probably heard about polyunsaturated omega fatty acids and monounsaturated fats before. Those are the two most frequently discussed types of beneficial fats, but have you heard about the health benefits of squalene?
Your new favorite fat
Squalene isn’t a fat you hear about much, but once you discover the good it can do for your body, it’s sure to be your new favorite.
Squalene is a fat that is made by your own body, it’s produced by your liver. It’s part of the system that your body uses to keep your skin and other tissues lubricated and moist. It also protects your body from environmental toxins.
The problem is, our natural levels tend to peak in our twenties, and then go down from there.
There is a long list of health benefits that squalene has to offer, making the foods that contain it an ideal addition to your diet. It’s about so much more than skin.
A few highlights: it helps to boost your immune system, can promote weight loss, is great for your heart, bones and digestive system, can help to prevent disease and can even minimize early signs of aging.
According to the Botani blog, “Applying squalene to the skin will help maintain skin health without the greasiness because it mimics our bodies natural moisturizer and is quickly absorbed. On the skin’s surface, it protects from moisture loss and environmental toxins by acting as a barrier.”
Squalene also does wonders for your hair and nails. Not surprisingly, a number of cosmetics companies use squalene in their products.
Squalene or squalane?
Making things a little more confusing is the fact that there are two fats with very similar names that are both found in beauty products. The names are so alike, you can easily mistake one for the other when reading an ingredients list. The first is squalene, the second is squalane.
So, what’s the difference?
Squalene and squalane are like two sides of the same coin. Squalane is actually made by hydrogenating squalene. According to the Realize Beauty blog, “Hydrogenation is a process of breaking any double bonds that exist in a molecule and replacing them with hydrogen. This makes the resulting fat harder and gives it a higher melting point.”
The potential downside of this is that hydrogenating fats turns them into trans fats. Now, if you are just putting this fat on your skin, many people argue that that shouldn’t matter.
It doesn’t seem like the question of whether you absorb trans fats through your skin and into your bloodstream has been studied yet, though, so we prefer to err on the side of caution and avoid squalane.
Otherwise, the two are fairly similar. Usually, squalane is only used topically whereas squalene is found in a number of natural sources, that are used as both food and on the skin.
Eating squalene has an added benefit because you get the advantages for your skin both from the inside and out.
Historically, though, getting squalene for beauty products hasn’t always been the most environmentally friendly.
Traditional sources of squalene
Shark Liver Oil
This is a very controversial source, as I’m sure you can imagine. We don’t recommend it.
Deep-sea sharks, like chimeras, gulper, kitefin and dogfish sharks have high levels of squalene in their livers.
NaturalBeauty.About.com tells us that “The sharks’ slow growth and infrequent reproduction cycles partnered with overfishing are causing scarcity in many species. A non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation called BLOOM released a 2012 study entitled “The hideous price of beauty: Cosmetics industry drives deep sea shark extinctions” warning the sharks that produce squalene have neared extinction in just a few years’ time to feed the consumer need.”
One of the most controversial practices for obtaining shark liver oil is called ‘livering’. This involves catching the sharks, removing their livers and throwing the sharks back into the ocean. These animals are fatally injured and left to suffer a slow death.
Obviously, this cruel practice is unacceptable and efforts are being made to put a stop to it altogether. However, since there is no way to remove the liver without killing the shark, there really is no ideal method of collecting the oil.
As a result of this, many cosmetic companies have stopped using shark liver oil and are looking for alternative options.
Thankfully, there are vegetable sources of squalene, one of which actually contains more squalene than shark liver oil…
What’s the best way to get squalene for your diet and skin?
Olives and Olive Oil
The Mediterranean diet has long been credited for its health benefits and for supporting a long lifespan, largely due to the number of olives and quantity of olive oil that Mediterranean people consume.
Olive oil, if you find a high quality, cold-pressed product, is a healthy source of fat and nutrients. You can cook with it since it has a reasonably high smoke point, but its pleasant flavor lends itself to salads and other uncooked dishes too.
As it turns out, olive oil is also a great source of squalene. In fact, for a while, it was thought to be the only vegetable source of this powerful nutrient, and it is on the higher end of the scale.
How can you tell if the olive oil in your cupboard contains squalene? OliveOilSource.com helps solve that mystery: “Squalene would be found in fresh extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil which is rancid or has unacceptable flavors is deodorized using distillation. The resultant oil is called “Pure” or “Refined” olive oil. Squalene is removed during the refining process and is concentrated in the distillate.”
The distillate they refer is usually sold to cosmetic companies that use the concentrated squalene in their products.
Rice Bran Oil
You might not have heard of this oil before, it’s not very well known. It has two important benefits though: it contains squalene (though not as much as olive oil) and it has a high smoke point.
The high smoke point makes this oil easy to use in the kitchen since you shouldn’t cook with low smoke point oils. Want to know why? Click here to read our post on the subject.
According to Nea Naturals, “rice bran oil also contains squalene, which is a natural organic compound that helps with the synthesis of cholesterol and vitamin D in the body, and is also a natural fat produced by human skin cells. By helping to replenish our supply of squalene, rice bran oil helps the skin naturally regenerate itself, leading to younger, fresher looking skin.”
According to OrganicFacts.com, “its ability to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, help prevent cancer, improve skin health, help in weight loss, relieve menopausal symptoms, protect your heart, increase cognitive strength, and lower allergic reactions.”
Again, wheat germ is not as high in squalene as olive oil or the next vegetable source on our list, but it’s definitely noteworthy.
You might have seen wheat germ used in granola before, or maybe you’ve had it in a smoothie. Wheat germ oil is also an available option.
The germ is the most nutrient dense part of the wheat and it’s removed by the milling process, so you won’t find the squalene it holds in your loaf of bread.
In addition to containing squalene, wheat germ also contains powerful antioxidants and is high in vitamin E. It helps to protect your heart, boost your immune system and prevent disease.
Amaranth seeds and the oil that can be pressed from them contain many important nutrients that your body craves, including squalene.
In fact, amaranth has the highest squalene levels of all vegetable sources and even offers as much as 8 times as much as some shark liver oils!
There is a long list of health benefits that amaranth brings to the table. You can read through the top ten benefits in our recent post, just click here.
This isn’t an oil you should cook with, but you can stir it into yogurt, add it to smoothies or use it in salad dressings and other no-heat recipes.
You can also use it topically and skip the expensive cosmetics. This product is great for your hair, skin and nails, and you can use it alone or in homemade beauty recipes, like lotions and masks. You can even add it to your shampoo and conditioner, or apply it to your nails as a cuticle oil.
The best part about using amaranth oil topically is that it’s a 100% natural beauty product with no fillers or other additives — those can be hard to come by.
Having said this, it’s important that you source a high-quality amaranth oil, made with organic seeds and using optimal pressing conditions. This is important, because, like many seed oils, if the seeds are not pressed properly, you wind up with rancid oils, which do more harm than good.
Perfect Press® Amaranth Oil is Perfectly Pressed using proprietary pressing technology that ensures premium quality. We bottle the oil in Miron glass, to protect it from UV damage, too. Each drop is guaranteed fresh and potent.
If you’re looking for quality, click here to read about the best amaranth seed oil on the market.