By now, we all know that you are what you eat—especially when it comes to your skin. But did you know that the foods you eat aren’t just giving you a glowing complexion, they can also protect you from the sun? Yep, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Though nothing trumps sunscreen and protective clothing when it comes to protecting yourself from UVA and UVB rays, the foods you consume can have a positive (or negative) effect on how your skin looks, feels and behaves in the sun.
“There are certain foods, more so their components, that offer amazing benefits to skin health and dealing with the damaging effects of the sun, stress and other environmental exposures,” says Adam Kelinson, nutritionist and author. “However, there are also so many co-factors, such as duration of exposure, natural skin tone, altitude, time of year, sun intensity, etc. that make food consumption secondary to external protection.” Your best bet: create a lifestyle packed with ‘skin protecting’ foods and multiple reapplications of sunscreen.
So what foods should we be eating? Kelinson calls out vitamin and antioxidant-rich produce. “Antioxidants help with the elimination of free radicals that can be created by sun exposure and the damaging effects of UV radiation.” He recommends strawberries (high in Vitamin C), watermelon and tomatoes (both high in lycopene), almonds (high in Vitamin E), as well as carrots and sweet potatoes (both high in beta-carotene).
You should also think about including more fish in your diet. “Red snapper fish and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids, which helps with the elimination of free radicals from the body as well. Overall skin tone and quality would be the element here that omega-3 helps with,” says Kelinson. “The better health your skin is in, the better it will be in dealing with dryness, and burning that extended sun exposure can create.”
He also cites bone broth, the latest trendy superfood, as something else to consume regularly. “Its high collagen and gelatin contents promote healthy and strong skin, too.”
But again, keep in mind that nomming on these foods won’t make you invincible to sun exposure. “The body does not store these elements so that one could rely upon it later,” Kelinson reminds us. “The best suggestion would be to keep these foods in solid rotation and as a major part of your overall diet.” While omega-3’s can be consumed in supplement form, the antioxidants are best taken in whole food form—and stock up on sunscreen.
Bottom line: there’s no quick fix to protecting yourself from sun damage. But every little bit (even a sweet potato a day) is worth the effort.
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