It’s the season for poolside barbecues, afternoons at the lake, picnics in the park, and trips to the beach. It’s also the most likely time of year to seriously damage your skin with too much sun exposure. Even if you’re diligent in slathering on broad-spectrum SPF, wearing protective clothing, donning a protective hat and glasses, and seeking refuge in the shade, there’s one precaution you may be missing: your diet.
While strategic nutrition can’t take the place of a good sunscreen, you can boost your body’s protection from the inside out and even help reverse sun damage by making smart choices at the dining table. Here, we’ve assembled a list of foods that are great for the summer season, and also happen to offer great SPF benefits:
Tomatoes and Watermelon: Summer is peak tomato season, and these red beauties are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that helps prevent sun damage. A study published in the Journal of British Dermatology showed that healthy women who ate four tablespoons of tomato paste every day for three months were more protected against sunburn than those who didn’t. Watermelon also provides a healthy dose of this antioxidant, so cut one up and serve it at your next picnic!
Kiwi, Citrus, and Strawberries: All three of these are packed with Vitamin C, which fights those aging and cancer-causing free radicals that your body produces when skin is exposed to sunlight. In fact, kiwi offers the highest concentration of Vitamin C of any fruit. Citrus is loaded with Limonene, which was associated with a 34 percent lower risk of skin cancer in a University of Arizona study. Fresh kiwi strawberry lemonade, anyone?
Carrots and Red Peppers: A Korean study of healthy women who received a daily dose of 30 milligrams of beta carotene for three months showed that the antioxidant protected and repaired cells affected by photoaging. Carrots and red bell peppers are both good sources. Cut these two up for a quick and healthy poolside accompaniment to store-bought hummus.
Salmon, Snapper, and Walnuts: Trade out those burgers and hot dogs for grilled fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A British study showed that omega-rich fish oils guarded against sunburn and DNA changes that can lead to cancer. Not a fan of fish? Walnuts are another great source of omega-3s that make an easy, highly portable summer snack.
Almonds and Sunflower Seeds: These are rich in Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects against sun damage and has been shown to slow the aging of skin cells. Both also happen to make a great snack on the go.
Red or Purple Grapes: The red or purple varieties contain resveratrol, which helps prevent cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer. Frozen grapes make a great, bite-size popsicle in the summer heat – but be sure to cut into small pieces if you’re sharing with young children.
Green Tea: Green tea contains EGCGs, antioxidants that fight free radicals, decrease inflammation, and may help prevent skin cancer. In a University of Wisconsin study, EGCGs stopped genetic damage in human skin cells exposed to UV light. Make your iced tea the green variety this summer and your skin will thank you!
Resources:food, SPF, Sun Care