In the summertime, it's super important to take care of your skin, because it's hot, hot, hot out, and the sun can be mighty strong. While it's not okay to skip the sunblock (and maybe wear a hat), there are foods that offer sun protection that you should add to your diet for some bonus points. Besides, you can never be too safe when it comes to sunburns and cancer, right?
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on keeping their skin healthy and practicing habits that lower their risk of various diseases, skin cancer included. Of course, it's a good idea to be cautious year-round, but when summer rolls around, vigilance for sun damage (sunburns, spots, heat rashes, heat exhaustion, and cancer) should be even higher, as skin is more susceptible to these conditions. Sure, slapping on some sunscreen and taking breaks to head indoors and feel that A/C breeze can probably do the trick, but still, if there are foods that can also help (and taste great), you might as well eat up. Here are a few foods that can offer skin protection and keep your face fresh and glowing. Plus, they work well in some delicious summer recipes, too. Win.
According to Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD of Nutrition à la Natalie, over email with Bustle, a review states that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer. "Omega-3’s are most commonly found in fatty fish, like salmon, tuna or mackerel," Rizzo says. Try adding some salmon or tuna to a salad for lunch when out in the sunshine.
Apparently, nuts and seeds, like almonds or sunflower seeds, are high in Vitamin E, which can protect the skin from sun damage, explains Rizzo. Rizzo recommends adding shaved almonds to a salad or as a crust on meat or fish. Or, you can toss into a yogurt or oatmeal bowl for hearty, protein-packed breakfast.
Rizzo says that Vitamin C can help protect the skin from cancer and sun damage, so eating spinach, which is high in this nutrient, could help. Some other foods high in Vitamin C content? Citrus, melon, and carrots, so feel free to add those to a fresh juice when laying out in the sun.
"Anti-oxidants help 'sop up' UV-induced free radicals that directly damage skin cells and DNA, which lead to skin aging and skin cancers. Oral and topical anti-oxidants may help prevent and undo some of this damage," explains Tsippora Shainhouse MD, FAAD over email with Bustle. Other foods: Goji berries, wild blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, blackberries, kidney beans, artichokes, dark chocolate, pecans, cilantro, sweet potatoes, carrots, and red wine, says Shainhouse.
"Vitamin D is proven to help with bone-building and immune-boosting. However, it has also been demonstrated that women who have had non-melanoma skin cancer, and who consumed a vitamin D (400IU) +calcium supplement daily, reduced their risk of developing melanoma," says Shainhouse. A few other sources of Vitamin D? Fatty fish, dairy, and beef liver, says Shainhouse.
Due to their high lycopene (an antioxidant and precursor to Vitamin A) and Vitamin C content, tomatoes have been shown to protect the skin against sun damage and skin cancer, explains Christy Shatlock, RD at bistroMD over email with Bustle. Add them to a salad, or slice on a sandwich.
7. Sweet Potatoes
Similar to tomatoes but with a different precursor to Vitamin A (which you can assume is related to skin protection, as well), known as beta-carotene, sweet potatoes, as well as pumpkin, squash, and carrots, can protect the skin from the sun, says Shatlock. All of these orange and yellow hued fruits and veggies are also perfect for summer time, as they're light and match well with seasonal flavors.
If you're known to be a "tanner" during the summertime, nosh on these foods each day for a little extra protection. It can't hurt, and it'll add some flavor to your meals, anyway!