5 Foods That Help Protect Your Skin From the Sun
- Written By:Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN
by Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN and founder of Real Nutrition
I’m not sure how you all feel, but summer is up there as my favorite season. A little beach time, a bounty of fresh fruit and veggies at the green markets, the sun on my face — all motivates me and helps me to feel my very best. (Dare I even say, my most relaxed?!) With my clients, our conversations turn from comfort food to healthy beach snacks, and I always throw in a few important points on how to protect your skin from the sun, from the inside out. Of course, I preach sunscreen. But did you know you can also protect your skin from sun damage by eating certain foods? I know, healthy eating just keeps getting better, right? So when you pack up the picnic basket or cooler for your weekend, make sure to add the foods I discuss below to not only keep you beach body ready, but to help you prevent sun damage too.
We tend to think of these orange beauties as a spring veggie (Easter Bunny-fuel), but I am always recommending them in the summer as a healthy snack. Not only do they travel well, they are a favorite for dipping (I see you hummus, guac and salsa) and they are LOADED with beta carotene — an antioxidant that fights inflammation after sun exposure. So in case you forgot to reapply your sunscreen (every 80 minutes please), this is your back up plan.
This delicious pink food tops wellness charts for so many reasons; but the omega-3 fatty acids it contains helps to repair skin damage by enhancing the integrity of the skin while decreasing inflammation. It also adds much needed hydration which, in turn, makes us less sensitive to harmful UV rays. And if that wasn’t enough, salmon is also a great source of zinc, a nutrient that promotes skin healing. Our favorite way to enjoy this nourishing fish? Throw it on the grill with fresh herbs, then enjoy with some dark leafy greens and a squeeze of bright lemon.
Who doesn’t love to eat cold watermelon in the summertime? I even freeze mine in chunks and snack on them after a long day in the sun. Loaded with high levels of lycopene (even more than tomatoes!), it can help to absorb UV radiation. It is, however, recommended to begin eating watermelon a few weeks in advance of your beach days for best results, as building up the amount of lycopene in your body improves the protection it provides.
One of my all time favorite summer foods are tomatoes. They are so juicy, naturally sweet, and even help provide protection from the sun’s rays thanks to lycopene — the powerful antioxidant often found in red and pink foods. Lycopene protects against oxidative damage (i.e. wrinkles, sun spots), and some research supports that individuals who eat a diet rich in tomatoes have improved protection from UV rays than those who do not. We like to pop them into our mouths straight from the garden, but making fresh gazpacho is on our to-do list!
Just in case you haven’t jumped on the “avocado on everything” trend yet, these facts will convince you to add it to your very next meal. The high fat content of these beauties helps to maintain the integrity of our skin, keeping it moist and, in turn, protecting it from wrinkles. Avocados are also loaded with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant which helps prevent signs of premature aging. And if this wasn’t enough, there are even some preliminary studies that show avocados contain compounds that may protect the skin from UV rays and damage. Amen!
So, in addition to your sunscreen, the next time you head to the beach, pack a nice big salad and protect your body from the inside out!