12 Foods That Help Protect Your Skin From Sun Damage
We’ve all heard of SPF in a jar or bottle, but what about a snack?
READ: 10 Skincare Essentials For Women In Their 40s
Turns out food just may be a kind of internal sunscreen — a natural armor for our precious skin.
Obviously, you shouldn’t just start replacing sunblock with food, but what you eat can offer additional protection for your skin from harmful UV rays, helping to reduce sun damage!
READ: Can You Prevent Wrinkles with Eggs?
Just like beauty itself, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Any refined sugars will activate inflammation in the body causing both stomach and internal organ problems as well as skin. “If there is one food that needs to be avoided when in the sun, it is definitely refined sugar — water with sugar flavors, soda, desserts, white flour, white pasta, sugar-coated salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup, coffee or tea with sugar, etc.,” says Dr. Daria M. Brezinski, a psychologist and speaker.
Turn to the dark side
Need yet another reason to embrace your dark chocolate addiction? “Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the flavanols in cocoa may actually help provide protection from UV damage,” says Joshua Duvauchelle, a NCAA-accredited certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise with nutrition certification from Cornell University. Look for chocolate that’s high in cocoa with little to no sugary additives — the excess sugar can create health problems of its own.
"Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant with natural sunscreen properties (and anti-aging properties!),” says Dr. Jennifer A. Gardner, a pediatrician and wellness expert, and founder of Healthy Kids Company. Sun-dried tomatoes and canned or bottled tomato products — such as tomato paste, sauce, soups, juice, ketchup and tomato based chili or hot sauces — are a concentrated source of lycopene. But fresh tomatoes like those found in homemade salsa, gazpacho, or tomato salad still offer a respectable dose of good-for-your-skin lycopene. Other foods rich in lycopenes include watermelon (watermelon actually contains more lycopene than tomato products!), purple grapes, pink or red grapefruit, apricots, plums, red bell peppers, papaya, and guava.
Carrots have betacarotene, another antioxidant that has natural sunscreen properties. “It may also help reverse sun damage and reduce the intensity of a sunburn!” says Dr. Gardner. Other betacarotene rich foods (think deep orange pigment) include sweet potatoes, apricots, squash, pumpkins, papaya and mango. Some non-orange foods also contain beta carotene, such as mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, beets and beet greens, cabbage, kale, and spinach.
Strawberries, kiwi, oranges, and cherries contain high levels of vitamin C, which can reduce free radical damage caused by exposure to UV radiation. “Vitamin C also stimulates collagen production, important for skin’s youthful appearance. In addition to vitamin C, cherries contain melatonin, which protects skin from UV radiation and repairs sunburn damage,” says Dr. Gardner. One big exception: limes, which can actually cause the skin to burn more, so be sure to limit those sweet drinks with lime juice or peels when heading out in to the sun!
Sunflower seeds, almonds, and pumpkin seeds are great sources of Vitamin E. “Vitamin E is another great antioxidant that helps protect the skin from sun damage,” says Carina Sohaili, Board Certified Celebrity Nutrition and Health Counselor and creator of Vibrant Healthy Life. Have a handful of almonds as a mid-morning snack or sprinkle pumpkin seeds on your morning Greek yogurt or salad for lunch. Avocado is also a great source of Vitamin E!