Any time you spend time in the sun you should reach for a bottle of your favorite SPF product and apply it to your skin, but according to Kimberly Baden, an esthetician with Rejuvena Health & Aesthetics, these foods will also help protect you from the sun.
1. Go Ga-Ga for Greens: Leafy greens such as leeks, artichokes, broccoli, kale, romaine, spinach, cilantro, celery, and parsley are optimal for preventing and repairing sun damage. A recent study indicates that eating spinach, kale, and Swiss chard may reduce risk of squamous cell skin cancer by 50%.
2. Love your Lycopene: Watermelon, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, tomato, and all red fruits contain lycopene, an antioxidant which can enhance the skin’s natural defense against free radicals by 35%. Recent studies have shown that healthy women, aged 21-47, who ate 55 grams of tomato paste containing 16 mg of lycopene every day for 12 weeks experienced significant protection against acute–and potentially long-term–sun damage. Remember that cooked tomatoes, and tomato products like paste and sauce, offer far more bioavailable lycopene than raw tomatoes. Watermelon is especially rich in lycopene, and contains 40% more lycopene than tomatoes.
3. Indulge in some dark chocolate or raw cacao: Dark chocolate (with at least 70% cacao) contains four times as much phenols and catechins as tea. These antioxidants protect skin from sunburn and skin cancer. Be aware, though, that milk chocolate does not have the same effect because milk prevents the absorption of polyphenols, or plant chemicals that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial capabilities.
4. Tea up your UV protection: Black, white, and green teas all contain polyphenols that help fight the battle against UV rays. However, green tea has more epigallocatechin–3–gallate (EGCG), the most powerful polyphenol of them all. You can say EGCG is a multitasking chemical that slows down sun-related skin aging, prevents skin cancer, and inhibits tumor cells.
5. Broccoli bites: Broccoli is rich in an antioxidant called sulphoraphane that helps protect cells against the ravages of UV radiation. You can incorporate the benefits of broccoli for protection from skin cancer from the sun by eating one half-cup daily.
6. Get your omegas on: Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation, and protect your skin from sunburn and melanoma (a deadly form of skin cancer). Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, algae/seaweed, flax, hemp, and chia seeds are rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.
7. Boost your saturated fat intake: A recent study shows that saturated fats actually protect the skin from the inflammatory response (sunburn) after too much sun exposure, and that these good fats also reduce the risk of some skin cancers and increase the time it takes to become sunburned—very similar to what sunscreens do. So add in healthy sources of saturated fats, such as butter (made from grass-fed raw, organic milk) and coconut oil.
8. Go apes for astaxanthin: Astaxanthin is perhaps the most powerful antioxidant ever studied. It is 550 times more powerful than vitamin E, and it has been shown to protect the skin and eyes against ultraviolet radiation. It is derived from microalgae and is the part that gives salmon, shrimp, and pink flamingos that eat the algae their characteristic orange or pink coloring. It may be difficult to get therapeutic amounts of astaxanthin through food alone, so supplementing with 12 mg per day will boost your internal sun protection. It does take some time, around 2-4 weeks, to build up adequate sun protection.
9. Pump up your pomegranate intake: You can also boost your internal sunscreen by taking a pomegranate-extract supplement (up to 60 mg, at health-food stores). This can enhance your skin’s sun-protective properties by 25%, says L.A. dermatologist Howard Murad. You can also drink pomegranate juice, or eat the pomegranate fruit.
10. Rev up your Resveratrol levels: Resveratrol gets a lot of publicity for its possible anti-cancer, cardioprotective, and lifespan-enhancing qualities, but it’s also gaining steam as a potential photoprotective agent. A study found that once incorporated into skin cells, resveratrol protected them from UV damage.