I used to have a one-track mind when it came to sun protection: sunscreen and shade. The shade part didn’t always work out so well when it came to summer activities like swimming, running, and generally being lazy outside. Sunscreens and sunblocks are a whole other topic for another day, but if you’re wanting to learn more, I suggest checking out the Environmental Working Group‘s list of safe sunscreens.
But there’s more you can do to protect your skin from the sun. Today’s sun protection topic is FOOD! As if you needed any more reason to eat, and eat healthy food at that, it turns out eating the abundant bounty from the local farmers market (or your own garden) can help build your skin’s defense against the sun’s harmful rays. Here are six foods to boost your skin’s defenses and your overall health.
1) Walnuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds
These nuts and seeds contain healthy fats and vitamin E. Omega-3’s can help prevent the cellular breakdown in our skin when it’s exposed to UV rays. Vitamin E helps slow cell damage and is a powerful antioxidant. So snack on a handful of nuts/seeds or even top your salads with them!
These fruits should be more in the spotlight. They pack more vitamin C than most other fruits, which makes them full of a powerful antioxidant. In addition, the phytonutrients combined with antioxidants help protect skin’s DNA from oxidative damage. Did you know you can even eat the skin?!
Strawberries and blueberries are also high in vitamin C, which reduce free radical damage from UV rays. There are so many different ways to eat berries: fresh, in a smoothie, or in a gluten-free muffin. Did you know that heating blueberries increases their potency? Try making a warm blueberry sauce to top gluten-free waffles for brunch this weekend!
4) Green tea
Green tea contains polyphenols, which can slow the blood supply to cancerous cells. Green tea also contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. So switch out your cup of joe this summer for a cup of tea. Spice it up with a splash of lemon, and enjoy!
5) Red and orange produce
Red and orange fruits and vegetables contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene helps rid the body of free radicals. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and watermelons are great choices.
This one is definitely one of my favorites! Dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants called flavonoids. A study has shown that long-term consumption of dark chocolate improves the skin’s ability to protect itself from sun damage. I suggest 72 percent or higher as a special treat each day.
As you’ve noticed by now, antioxidants play a major role in our health. However, this is not the OK to rely solely on food as your sun protection. As you enjoy this last month or so of summer, don’t forget about that sunscreen, hanging in the shade, and avoiding the sun in the middle of the day. And do I have to say, AVOID those tanning beds!