Did you know that it’s possible to eat your sunscreen? No, we’re not talking about that tube of Coppertone (seriously, don’t eat that). But research has shown that some of the best protection against long-term UV damage can be found in the produce aisle. We’re not recommending you shelve the sunscreen entirely, but consuming certain antioxidants and minerals can boost your sun protection and preserve your skin’s health in the long run. Plants use antioxidants to protect themselves against harsh sunlight, so why wouldn’t we? Makes sense!
These are the six superfoods that can help you combat sun damage this summer:
- Tomatoes: Lycopene, a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, has been shown to protect the skin against sunburn. You can get this nutrient pretty easily by upping your intake of cooked tomatoes, but your best bet is actually tomato paste. This study tracked patients eating tomato paste against a control group over 10 weeks and found that the lycopene eaters were 40% less likely to be sunburned. Watermelon is a great source of lycopene too!
- Leafy greens: Is there anything leafy greens can’t do? Fresh herbs — specifically parsley, basil, sage and rosemary — are packed with free-radical fighting and skin-protecting antioxidants. And dark leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard are all full of antioxidants like polyphenols and carotenoids, which may naturally protect the skin from sun damage. One study found that eating green leafy vegetables helped prevent the reappearance of skin cancer in people who had previously suffered.
- Avocados: As if you needed another reason to eat avocado toast. The healthy oils in avocados help protect the skin from the damaging effects of the sun. Add them to smoothies, salads, sandwiches, or dice them up with some lemon juice for a refreshing summer treat.
- Citrus Fruits: Fruits like oranges, limes, grapefruit, and lemons provide a ton of vitamin C, which works as an antioxidant, fighting off free- radicals and keeping skin healthy. Research suggests that a sufficient, long-term intake of vitamin C, together with vitamin E, can reduce the sunburn reaction to UVB irradiation.
- Carrots: Carrots are rich in carotenoids, one of the few foods that provide a source of vitamin A. Carotenoids are the pigments that give many fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, and they provide increased protection against sunburn, especially when combined with vitamin E. In addition to carrots, other food sources of carotenoids include sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, collard greens, papaya, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, sunflower seeds, and pistachios, are high in vitamin E, which can protect cells from sun damage and keep skin clear. The healthy, monounsaturated fats found in almonds can also keep skin less inflamed and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.