Summer is almost here, which means sunny days are ahead! Unfortunately, it also means a higher potential for sun burns and skin damage. Since deadly skin cancers have nearly doubled in the last few decades, taking precautions to protect your skin is essential. If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors this summer, be sure to use some form of sunscreen to protect your skin from overexposure, damage and premature aging.
Did you realize that some foods can affect how resilient your skin is to the harsh UV rays of the sun? Here are 5 food groups that have been shown to help improve skin health (keep in mind these aren’t a substitute for safe sunscreen and proper skin protection!).
SALMON & CHIA
Or any omega-3-rich food for that matter. Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely anti-inflammatory in the body and can protect cells from sun-induced free radical damage by acting as an oxidation buffer. Omega-3s have also been shown to have the potential to prevent non-melanoma skin cancer. Other great sources include fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds.
TOMATOES & CARROTS
Beta-carotene and lycopene have been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect itself from UV rays. Along with other antioxidants, beta-carotene can reduce reaction to sunburns and lycopene can protect against UV-induced erythema. Beta-carotene-rich foods include sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, and butternut squash. Other lycopene-rich foods include red and orange peppers, pink grapefruit, watermelon and guava.
The flavonoids in this superfood have actually been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect itself against sun damage. A study showed that long-term consumption of high flavanol cocoa improved photoprotection, increased blood flow to the skin, increased skin density, and increased skin hydration in women. As if you needed another reason to eat chocolate…
Yes, yes, we all know that broccoli, cauliflower and that ubiquitous superfood kale are full of antioxidants. And antioxidants prevent free radical damage, like the damage caused by UV rays. But cruciferous veggies also possibly play a role in preventing not only skin cancer, but many forms of cancer, although the research is far from conclusive. Additionally, consumption of leafy greens has been shown to reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma in those with previous skin cancer (interestingly, unmodified dairy products were shown to increase the risk). Either way, getting more cruciferous veggies and greens in your diet never hurt anyone.
Those polyphenols have done it again. Studies have shown that daily tea drinking, in association with the Mediterranean diet, can offer protection against melanoma. Regular consumption of green tea has also been shown to reduce mild sun damage. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant in green tea, has been shown to fight inflammation in the skin by neutralizing free radicals and preventing the development of wrinkles. Black tea is also effective, with the skin-protecting antioxidant quercetin.
Keep in mind eating a bar of dark chocolate and sprinkling some chia seeds on your oatmeal isn’t enough of an excuse to ditch the sunscreen. Again, be sure to stay in shady areas, avoid tanning beds and use safe sunscreen.
Above all, keep safe this summer. And enjoy boosting the anti-inflammatory content of your diet with the aforementioned superfoods. You and your family will feel and look great for a healthy summer of fun in the sun!