Summer is nearly here, and we all want to enjoy some fun in the sun without worrying about painful sunburns. But what if I told you that the key to preventing sunburns isn't really about slathering on more sunscreen, but rather cutting polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) out of your diet? It might sound crazy, but Ray Peat, a well-known biochemist and researcher, has a theory that links sunburns to PUFAs.
What are PUFAs?
PUFAs are a type of fat found in many foods, including vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. While they are marketed as being healthy, PUFAs can actually do more harm than good when consumed in excess. In fact, they are highly unstable and can easily oxidize in the body, leading to inflammation and damage to cells.
Ray Peat's Theory
According to Peat, PUFAs can make our skin more sensitive to the sun's UV rays, leading to sunburns. This is because PUFAs increase the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that cause inflammation and make the skin more susceptible to damage from UV radiation. Not to mention these prostaglandins are known for causing PMS cramps and migraines too!
PUFAs are also highly unstable when exposed to light and heat, which can cause them to oxidize and create harmful byproducts in the body. These byproducts can contribute to inflammation and tissue damage, making the skin more sensitive to UV radiation from the sun. By reducing your intake of PUFAs and focusing on healthy fats instead, you can help to protect your skin from sun damage and prevent painful sunburns.
As a fair skinned woman, I can speak from personal experience because I tried this decade long experiment for myself. I cut most PUFAs out of my diet about ten years ago, trusting that I was doing something good for my body. Interestingly, when I still ate PUFAs, I went on a trip to Cuba where I constantly re-applied 50 SPF sunscreen and got intense burns twice in one week. But recently, I visited Mexico for a three week trip, barely wore sunscreen during the entire trip and never burned. I shared this experience with some friends who told me that the same thing happened to them too!
Cutting PUFAs Out of Your Diet
Cutting PUFAs out of your diet might seem like a daunting task, but it's actually easier than you might think. Start by avoiding processed foods, which are often high in vegetable oils and other sources of PUFAs. Instead, opt for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and high-quality animal products.
One of the most common sources of PUFAs in the modern diet is vegetable oils. These oils are often used for cooking and baking, and can be found in a wide range of processed foods. Some of the oils that are highest in PUFAs include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. While these oils may be marketed as "heart-healthy," they are actually quite harmful to the body when consumed in excess.
So, if you want to reduce your intake of PUFAs, what can you do? One option is to switch to healthier cooking oils, such as coconut oil, avocado oil, or even butter or ghee. These fats are much more stable at high temperatures and are less likely to cause inflammation in the body. Another option is to focus on whole, unprocessed foods and to avoid processed snacks and baked goods that are often made with vegetable oils.
While the idea of cutting back on PUFAs may seem daunting at first, it's worth considering if you're concerned about your overall health and well-being. By reducing your intake of vegetable oils and focusing on healthier fats, such as coconut oil, avocado oil, or even butter or ghee, you can help to protect your skin from sun damage and support your body's natural healing processes. So why not give it a try and see how you feel? Your skin (and your whole body) may thank you for it!