When it comes to sun protection, sunscreen is a non-negotiable, but you can boost its effects by loading up on certain foods that have been proven to have SPF power too. To find out more about what these foods are, I turned to Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN, and Lexi Sinclair of Savorfull. Here’s a look at what you might want to consider adding to your diet…just remember to do so along with applying your UVA/UVB sun protection!
Green Tea: Green tea is one of the best sources of sun-protecting antioxidants. ECGC, a polyphenol found in green tea, is an extremely powerful antioxidant that has been proven to reduce the effects of skin damage from sun exposure. Research from Case Western Reserve University has shown that drinking green tea prevents ultraviolet exposure sunburn, swelling, and DNA damage in rats. Further research has been done with humans to show the same skin-protecting effects. Green tea also protects against ultraviolet, light-induced skin cancers. Green tea should be consumed daily for maximum benefits. Try switching your morning coffee with green tea for a healthy dose of skin-protecting antioxidants without sacrificing the caffeine.
Carrots: Carrots contain beta-carotene, a nutrient that helps protect the skin against free radical damage from sun exposure. Beta-carotene not only prevents future damage, but also helps reverse damage that has already occurred. Carrots also contain Vitamin C, another powerful nutrient with antioxidant properties that protects against cell damage and aids the body in collagen production. Furthermore, carotenoids, another antioxidant found in carrots, protect against sunburn intensity. Try roasting carrots and sweet potatoes in coconut or olive oil in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes for a delicious side dish.
Salmon: The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fish have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help protect against free radical damage from sun exposure. Astaxanthin, an extremely powerful antioxidant found in salmon, also protects the skin and eyes against ultraviolet radiation. Note that it takes approximately two-four weeks for these protection benefits to kick in, so it is best to consume salmon and other fatty fish a few times per week for maximum benefits. Grilled salmon with lemon and dill makes a light, yet flavorful meal.
Dark Chocolate: The flavonoids found in dark chocolate help protect against sun damage, including both sunburns and skin cancer. Flavonoids such as epicatechins, catechins, and procyanidins have antioxidant properties that protect the skin from sun damage, while also increasing circulation to small capillaries in the skin. Look for dark chocolate that has 70% or higher cacao content in order to reap maximum skin protection benefits. Add a little bit of dark chocolate to your morning oatmeal with almond butter and banana for a rich, satisfying, guilt-free treat.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects skin damage from free radicals. A recent study by the Journal of British Dermatology found that those who consumed tomato paste benefitted from 33 percent more sun protection than the control group. Cooked tomatoes, including tomato paste and tomato sauce, contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Additional sources of lycopene include watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, and cooked, sweet red peppers. Make homemade pizza or pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes, garlic, onion, and herbs.