As we enter into the joys of the summer, sun exposure becomes an inevitable part of daily life.
On the plus side, summer is the easiest time of year to get your beneficial vitamin D. But the downside is it’s also the easiest time to get sunburnt.
When your skin is excessively exposed to these ultraviolet rays (UV), these rays can activate free radicals in the skin and cause accelerated aging, sunburn and may over time lead to skin cancer.
Contrary to popular belief, liberally smothering yourself in sunblock every moment of the day to avoid sunburn is not all there is to it.
There are many ways to improve your skin’s UV resistance, and what you eat is one of them.
What you put in your mouths can have a huge impact on how your skin handles the sun. Eating certain fruits and veggies can actually give your body the raw materials to build its own sun protection, from the inside out.
While not a substitute for topical sunscreen, combining both the use of a non-chemical protective sunscreen for the face and body, and the nutritional support from an antioxidant-rich diet complete with plenty of fruits and vegetables, high quality fats and proteins and plenty of pure water; you should be able to boost your skins protection from the sun.
Food is our first line of defense, but if you are going to be in the sun for long periods of time, be smart.
Wear protective clothing, pop on some sunnies and rub in some non-toxic sun cream to avoid overloading your skin with too much sun.
Try incorporating the following foods to help protect your skin against UV rays from the inside out:
1 – Tomatoes, Watermelons and Red Peppers
Tomatoes, watermelons and red peppers derive their rich colours from carotenoids–beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene.
Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that has undergone a lot of research into the area of UV damage; in particular on how well it can protect our skin from UV damage from sunburn.
This magical component can help to neutralise the free radicals produced from too much sun, as well as minimising any inflammatory response to UV damage.
In a German study, participants who ate a quarter cup of tomato paste with olive oil every day for 10 weeks experienced 35 percent less skin reddening when exposed to UV radiation than those who did not eat the tomato paste.
There is a catch though. In raw tomatoes, lycopene is tightly bound to indigestible fibre, therefore eating raw tomatoes provides relatively small amounts of bioavailable lycopene.
The good news is that the effect is magnified when you eat cooked tomatoes, such as tomato paste or tomato sauce. These are a much better dietary source of lycopene.
Further still, if eaten along with fat, such as olive oil, the lycopene is even better absorbed.
To get any noticeable skin benefit from lycopene you need to eat at least 100 grams of tomato paste a day. An easier way may be to use lycopene supplements.
Red bell peppers and watermelons also have the healing properties of tomatoes thanks to their lycopene and beta-carotene (a carotenoid like those in carrots) content, helping to reduce sunburn intensity and protect you from UV damage.
2 – Cruciferous Veggies
If you plan to naturally increase your skin’s natural resistance to sun damage, you’ll definitely want to include more cruciferous veggies to your diet.
Foods in this family include broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage and cauliflower.
Well known for being some of the healthiest foods on the planet, vegetables in the Cruciferae family owe their skin-protecting, UV-resisting, disease fighting properties to the organosulfur compound known as sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane belongs to a group of phytochemicals, or disease-fighting compounds in plant foods, known as the isothiocyanates which help to protect the body cells against UV radiation, making it one of the best natural remedies against skin cancer that we know of!
For some additional help, look towards green supplements like Nuzest Good Green Stuff or Udo’s Choice Beyond Greens.
3 – Dark Leafy Greens
It’s no secret that dark leafy greens top the list of healthiest natural foods.
Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, green lettuce, Swiss chard and watercress are excellent sources of skin protecting antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E and vitamin A which may naturally protect the skin from sun damage.
Even if dark leafy salad greens aren’t to your liking, you can still get the skin-nourishing, natural sun-blocking nutrients of this food group from fresh herbs. Basil, parsley, sage and rosemary are all great choices!
4 – Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and cantaloupe
Orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and cantaloupe are all high in the antioxidant beta-carotene (Vitamin A) which has been shown to help protect the skin against the free radical damage caused from sun exposure and reduce sunburn intensity.
The beta-carotene found in these foods may provide increased protection against sunburn, especially when combined with vitamin E.
Because vitamin A is fat-soluble, you can increase your body’s ability to absorb this important nutrient by adding a good plant based fat when consuming it. Think avocado, coconut, olives, nuts, nut butters or simply a drizzle in their oil form.
5 – Almonds & Almond Butter
Almonds and food made from raw almonds (like delicious almond butter!) are one of the best natural sources of another skin-loving antioxidant – vitamin E. Vitamin E helps to protect and repair the skin from sunlight and UV damage.
Almonds and their associated antioxidants not only help to prevent sunburn and other forms of UV damage, they make your skin look and feel great!
6 – Pomegranate
Whether you choose to drink pomegranate juice, take pomegranate liquid supplements or simply eat the fruit; if you plan to improve your skin’s natural UV resistance, this is one food that definitely deserves a prime spot on your shopping list.
Pomegranates are simply loaded with antioxidants, including one especially powerful one called ellagic acid, which can help protect against cell damage from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
Ellagic acid helps to increase the body’s ability to produce glutathione, a power-house antioxidant, which helps to increase protection from free radical damage.
And here’s a fun fact: Glutathion has been shown to significantly increase skin’s resistance to ultraviolet radiation by up to 20 percent!
7 – Citrus Fruit
Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits) provide a ton of vitamin C, plus other skin loving nutrients including limonene and quercetin to help fight off free radicals, prevent premature aging, reduce inflammation, and help to keep your skin healthy.
Vitamin C itself does not work as a barrier to UV rays, but once rays enter the skin, it is a potent antioxidant that slows the rate of free radical damage to collagen and aids in skin repair.
Research has also found that a long-term intake of vitamin C, together with vitamin E, may eve reduce the potential for sunburn, so a good squeeze of lemon through your guacamole and a serving a sweet potato chips could go a long way!
8 – Strawberries
Strawberries contain a powerful combination of skin loving antioxidants, one in particular being vitamin C.
Their high vitamin C levels help to fight the free radicals that are produced when your skin gets too much sun, thereby helping to protect your skin from sun damage.
They can also work as a treatment for sunburn, should you have caught the sun, thanks to their tannin levels. These tannins aid in the reduction of pain, helping to give a quick and all natural relief.
Simply mash up some strawberries and gently rub on to the effected area. Rinse off after a few minutes.
9 – Green Tea
With every sip of green tea, your body is receiving bountiful amounts of catechins. Catechins are a type of antioxidant found in tea, red wine, chocolate, and apples which helps to protect the skin from UV damage.
They also have disease-preventing properties and protect against sunburn inflammation and long-term UV radiation damage.
The most abundant type of catechin in green tea is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and this is the one that provides sun protection. It’s also believed to be the most powerful catechin.
There have even been studies to show that supplementing with green tea catechins can help make your skin more resistant to ultraviolet radiation and therefore premature skin ageing.
Drinking green tea or green tea extract daily is a great way to help prevent sun damage and slow aging of the skin, and can certainly be an important part of any skin care regimen.
10 – Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for many many aspects of your health, and so it should come as no surprise that they also help to improve overall skin health as well as the body’s natural UV resistance.
Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in flax, hemp, chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, algae/seaweed, leafy greens and oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines.
Of course supplementation is another option. Algae oil, seed oils and fish oils are available to boost your body’s natural ability to block out ultraviolet radiation.
11 – Spirulina
When it comes to sun protection, spirulina is right up there.
Micro-algae like chlorella and spirulina contain a carotenoid called Astaxanthin, and this Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful carotenoids ever studied.
One of the benefits that have been shown in multiple studies is astaxanthin’s ability to help protect the skin and eyes against ultraviolet radiation and reduce the signs of aging.
When you consume this pigment, you are essentially generating your own internal sunscreen since it reduces inflammation and helps reduce UVA damage to skin cells.
In other words, the same powerful antioxidants that protect the algae from the sun’s rays can help protect you too.
It’s also a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, so if you do get burnt, the effects may be minimized by consumption of this carotenoid. Try it in your smoothie, green juice or in tablet form.
Please be aware that I am not promoting a solely food based sun protection programme here. A cup of green tea here and a pomegranate there isn’t enough to protect anyone from a day in the sun.
These are simply fantastic foods to incorporate in to your diet to help boost your skin’s resistance to UV rays naturally, in combination with non-toxic sun cream, protective clothing and avoiding peak sun hours when possible.
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of organic food, wholesome pantry essentials, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, natural skincare, waste free and eco-friendly products. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
* Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.
*Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication.