13 Surprising Foods That Can Protect You From Sun & Skin Damage

Apart from wearing sunscreen, limiting exposure, and wearing hats and sunglasses to protect your eyes and skin from the sun, it's also important to eat the right foods to gain an extra dose of UV radiation protection. Because foods and nutrients can impact our exposure and absorption, it's important to eat foods that offer sun and skin protection to further benefit our bodies and stay safe.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on enjoying the sunshine, as it's great to play outdoors and the sun offers vitamin D, which is essential for metabolic function and nail and bone growth; however, I also warn about lack of sun protection and the dangers it can cause regarding skin cancer, aging and skin defects. Finding a healthy balance is key, as well as wearing adequate sunscreen (and applying throughout the day!) and sticking with UV-protecting whole foods for an added bonus. Having beautiful skin is not only great for boosting confidence and limiting time spent in the bathroom, but it also, and more importantly, helps delay the aging process and protects us long-term damage, especially in the form of cancer. Here are thirteen foods that can protect our skin from the sun's beaming rays.

1. Beta-Carotene Foods

Known for their "orange, yellow-ish" hue, foods that are rich in beta-carotene are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins to protect your eyes and skin from sun damage."Foods rich in beta-carotene, such as mango, cantaloupe and sweet potato seem to offer some protection," says dietician Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, a spokesperson for America's Better Sandwich, over email correspondence with Bustle. Enjoy a few slices of melon or mango, or fill a sweet potato with your favorite proteins and veggies.

2. Tomatoes

Loaded with lycopene and flavanols, tomatoes can increase sun protection. In conjunction with an oil for maximum absorption, it's even better. “Eggplant, black beans and tomato are rich in flavanols that may help protect against sun damage," advises Gans. Enjoying tomato juice, or throwing a few slices of eggplant or tomato in a sandwich or atop a salad can keep your skin safe and beautiful.

3. Olive Oil

Olive oil is filled with healthy fats, which can protect your skin from damage and inflammation due to the healthy omega 3 content, as well as vitamin E, proven to keep skin safe. Gans recommends dipping whole grain or wheat bread in olive oil, as whole wheat is also high in vitamin E. “One hundred percent whole wheat and olive oil contain vitamin E, which also has been associated with protection again sun damage," says Gans. You can also eat fresh olives for the same benefits!

4. Soy

Due to isoflavones, soy products, such as tofu, edamame, soy milk and tempeh, can boost collagen in the skin, delay onset of wrinkles and protect against cancer. Eating foods rich in soy can lower risk of cancer and disease, which can be beneficial in preventing skin cancer and keeping cells healthier. Tofu is also high in other vitamins, like vitamin E, to offer protection.

5. Chocolate

Beyond sun-protecting benefits, dark chocolate (darker the better for antioxidants and health benefits!), is high in antioxidants to promote anti-inflammation, cognitive health, and reduced stress. "Chocolate has flavonoids such as epicatechins, catechins, procyandins," says a registered dietician and nutritionist Kelly Springer, RD, over email with Bustle. "These flavonoids acts like antioxidants and help to protect us from damage from the sun," she adds. Plus, who can say no to some chocolate, right?

6. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard, has properties that can protect you from the sun. The darker the leaf, the better, as there are more free-radical fighting antioxidants in those with darker hues. Enjoy a salad in the summertime and squeeze lemon and olive oil for a dressing that can boost absorption and supply an extra dose of sun-protection.

7. Fruits High In Vitamin C

Studies show that vitamin C can prevent cancer cells from forming within the body and can boost collagen production in the skin, leading to tauter skin and delayed aging symptoms. The three fruits highest in vitamin C are strawberries, oranges and kiwi, with kiwi being the true all-star. Per ounce, kiwis have more vitamin C than any other fruit! Side note: there's tons of fiber in the skin, so don't be afraid to bite in like an apple.

8. Green Tea

Green tea, as well as black tea, is high in polyphenols found to protect against UV radiation. Brewing a cup of green tea or sipping an iced blend with citrus and fruits is a great way to get some cancer-fighting antioxidants and anti-aging benefits to keep skin firm, healthy and beautiful. Drinking two or more cups daily may reduce your risk of skin cancer by 30 percent. Cheers to that!

9. Broccoli

Broccoli, as well as other cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and bok choy, contains a property called sulphoraphane, which has been shown to provide anti-cancerous benefits and can protect skin cells from free radical, sun damage. Enjoy broccoli as a side with fish or toss in a breakfast omelet. Adding in these veggies is easy and delicious.

10. Foods High Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to do wonders for the skin. Besides keeping skin taut, glowing and acne-free, they can also offer sun protection. Studies show that consuming omega 3s, especially in the form of fish oil supplements, can lower risk of skin cancer and keep skin safe from the sun and its free radicals. Eat salmon, walnuts, hemp, flax and chia seeds, and lettuce, such as romaine, for great benefits.

11. Red Delicious Apples

An apple a day can keep your skin healthy and sun-damage free. However, only if you eat the skin! Research shows that certain compounds in the skin, called triterpenoids, can block cancer cells and thus lower risk of disease. Eating red delicious apples whole, throwing them in a smoothie, using as a base for nut butter, or slicing them for a cheese sandwich or atop a salad, are terrific ways to utilize this prime fruit.

12. Watermelon

Watermelon is not only hydrating and refreshing in the heat, but it is also packed with vitamins A and C, as well as lycopene, which has been shown to protect cells from UV damage. "One cup of cubed watermelon is an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin C and Vitamin A," says dietician Toby Amidor, MS, RD, an advocate for WTRMLN WTR, over email with Bustle. "Further, it is also brimming with the antioxidant lycopene, which is an antioxidant that can help protect cells from damage," she continues.

13. Almonds

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 soft, clear and blemish-free. The healthy, monounsaturated fats founds in almonds can also keep skin less inflamed and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which can occur from the aging process. Eating a handful or tossing in a salad or smoothie can delay aging and offer great protection.

While there's no excuse to not apply (and re-apply!) sunscreen, consuming foods high in sun-protecting properties can make your skin look fabulous and keep your cells healthy and strong. Avoiding sun damage and lowering risk of skin cancer is so important, as aging can really hurt us long-term if we are not careful with our bodies. Enjoy the beautiful sunshine, but stay safe in the process!

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