Summer is upon us and I am a big proponent of getting outside and enjoying the summer sunshine. Spending time in the sun can help to boost our mood, encourage activity, help set our circadian rhythm, and support vitamin D production. All things we need to keep our bodies and bones strong and healthy. But we all know how important it is to protect our skin from sunburn. Excessive sun and sunburns can damage our skin, or worse, lead to skin cancer.
If you are going to spend extended time in the sun, you know the golden rules to follow: wear a hat and sunglasses, cover up when your skin starts to get pink and use non-toxic sunscreen. However, did you know that there are also certain foods you can eat that will provide natural skin protection?
Studies have shown certain compounds in foods and beverages can help the skin fight off UV damage from the sun as well as help speed up the recovery process from sunburns. These compounds include carotenoids and polyphenols along with vitamins C and E. These nutrients are all powerful antioxidants that fight off the skin-damaging free radicals that are produced by the sun’s UV rays. It is no coincidence that many of our favorite summer vegetables and fruits are also foods that contain these skin-protecting nutrients.
Skin Protecting Summer Foods
- Tomatoes are very high in the carotenoid lycopene which may help to protect our skin from UV damage caused by excessive sun and sunburns. They are also a rich source of vitamin C. Cooking tomatoes appears to increase the bioavailability of the lycopene as does combining tomatoes with olive oil.
- Watermelon, another summer favorite, is also a great source of lycopene. The abundance of water in the melon helps to keep us hydrated when spending time outdoors as well.
- Summer berries, particularly blueberries, are an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamin C that can help protect the skin from damaging rays and even act as a sunscreen.
- Summer vegetables such as dark green leafy greens, carrots, and red bell peppers are an excellent source of beta-carotene, another great antioxidant to protect the skin. Beta-carotene also converts to vitamin A in the body which is vital to skin health.
- Green tea contains a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which has been found to offer natural sun protection and may even protect against skin cancer.
You can see how nature provides us with foods we need to protect our skin from the hot sunny days of summer!
There are lots of ways you can incorporate these foods into your summer diet, from salads to smoothies. One of my favorite summer salads is my Kale Salad. It combines so many of these wonderful skin-protecting foods such as kale, tomatoes, and red peppers. Serve it with some omega-3-rich salmon (also beneficial for our skin) and you have got a wonderful skin-nurturing meal!
However, eating these foods doesn’t mean ditching the sunscreen, the hats, or the coverups. But they can certainly give a boost to your summer skin protection plan and keep your skin healthy and glowing from the inside out.
I mentioned non-toxic sunscreens. Please check out the Environmental Working Groups Guide on Sunscreens to find safe, non-toxic sunscreens.