Eat for UV Sun Protection

Eat for UV Sun Protection

Growing up, I was told, “Eat a piece of fruit instead of eating candy,” or “You have to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert.”

Once, I had to sit at the dinner table until I finished my peas. Eww! Peas were gross to my eight year old self. Who can relate?

My parents reasoned that it would help me develop a strong, healthy body. Turns out, they weren't just being unfair. They were onto something big: protecting my skin from the sun.

Eat for Sun Protection

We often hear that skin care begins in the gut. Well, it's true. When it comes to shielding your skin from sun damage, your first line of defense starts from within. Eating foods rich in phytonutrients, which are compounds found in plants, can work wonders for your skin health.

Studies show that foods containing phytonutrients act as natural sunscreen for your body. They do this by acting as antioxidants, which shield you from the harmful effects of free radicals that occur during sunburn.

Meet the Heroes

The heroes behind these phytonutrients include vitamin E, flavonoids, carotenoids, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Let's break down some of the foods that contain these skin-saving compounds:

  • Berries: Packed with antioxidants, they fight off free radicals.
  • Carrots and red bell peppers: Rich in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A, offering sunburn protection.
  • Citrus fruits and strawberries: High in vitamin C, they reduce the risk of sunburn when combined with vitamin E, and they're packed with antioxidants.
  • Dark chocolate: Indulge a little. Its flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and prevent sun damage.
  • Dark leafy greens (collards, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach): Loaded with antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, they counter UV ray damage and prevent wrinkles and skin cancer. Also, my grandfather said that spinach will give me muscles like Popeye.
  • Grapes: Their polyphenol content fights off skin cancer.
  • Green tea: Contains EGCG, an antioxidant polyphenol with anti-cancer properties.
  • Tomatoes and watermelons: Lycopene-rich, they shield you from sunburn. Did you know watermelon was cultivated in Africa as a source of food and water during the dry seasons?
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, flax, and walnuts): Packed with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, they heal sunburn and protect skin from sunlight.
  • Pomegranate: Rich in antioxidants, it fights off free radicals.
  • Salmon: Full of omega-3 fatty acids, it aids in healing sunburn.
  • Turmeric: It's not just for curry. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties protect your skin from UVB rays.

The next you escape sunburn, it might be more than sunscreen. As Mark Twain said, sometimes, the wisdom of our parents - or in this case, their advice on eating our veggies - surprises us in the end.

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