As summer temperatures are rising, it's important to protect your skin from the sun. In addition to using a high quality sunscreen, getting the right amount of key nutrients can decrease your chances of burning and damaging your skin.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is key, so getting tons of good saturated fats, lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids will increase your body's natural defenses against sun damage.
Avoiding vegetable oils, processed foods and sugars (as much as possible) to reduce inflammation.
Here's a list of what you should be adding to your everyday to help protect your skin:
1) LEAFY GREENS/BROCCOLI - Spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc. are amazing for skin protection. They're full of radical-fighting, skin-protecting antioxidants, beta-carotene, high levels of folic acid and vitamins A, C and E. They're also great for preventing and repairing skin damage.
Broccoli in a great source of sulforaphane, and antioxidant that helps your cells protect themselves from UV radiation and reduces the risk of skin cancer.
Throw them into your smoothies, blanch them or sneak them into your sauces.
2) RED/ORANGE VEGGIES + FRUITS - Tomatoes, papaya, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red bell peppers are contain lycopene - an antioxidant that increases your sun tolerance, protects your skin from sunburn and rids the body of free radicals.
*Watermelon contains 40% more lycopene than tomatoes.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, mango, pumpkins, apricots all have beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that also has natural sunscreen properties.
*Sweet potatoes have more beta-carotene than almost any other vegetable.
3) COCONUT OIL - The medium chain fatty acids and saturated fats help increase your sun tolerance. They're also used to form new skin and can also be applied to the face as a low-spf sunscreen.
Add them to your smoothies (it's a thickening agent, too!).
4) FLAXSEEDS - They're an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids - the highest known plant source - which help reduce inflammation, strengthen immunity and support cardiovascular health. These seeds have tons of fiber and antioxidants that help protect your skin.
*The seeds need to be ground for their nutrients to be absorbed.
Add ground flax to your overnight oats, to smoothies, to your salad, etc.
5) SPIRULINA - This amazing superfood contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which protects the skin and eyes from UV radiation. It prevents cell damage, fights free radicals and inflammation in the body.
*It's an acquired taste that take some getting used to. If you eat fish, wild salmon is a great alternative.
6) TURMERIC - This powerful root plant has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the skin cells, improves your body's ability to fight free radicals and helps create a stronger UV shield for your skin.
Toss them with your favorite roasted vegetables, add them to your soups and/or teas.
7) TEA - Green and Black teas are packed with flavonoids - polyphenols and catechins - that also protect your skin from UV rays. Green tea is a bit more powerful, as it's able to prevent non-melanoma skin cancer enhancing DNA repair.
Swap out your coffee for a cup of tea.
8) DARK CHOCOLATE - Saving the best for last. Dark Chocolate with at least 70% cacao has 4 times the number of polyphenols and catechins as tea and provides up to a 25% increase in sun tolerance. These flavanoids improves your skin's ability to protect agains skin damage, including UV-induced sun burns.
There are some other foods that have the same benefits, but these are my favorites. Just remember to eat foods rich in good saturated fats, lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.