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While the obvious protection from the sun is a hat + skin care that is completely free of harsh chemicals and endocrine disrupting toxins like these sunscreens, paying attention to the foods that you eat is just as important. Certain diets, particularly those rich in healthy fats and antioxidants, can increase sun tolerance, whereas diets high in sugar, vegetable oils and fried, fatty foods can have the adverse affect— making us more susceptible to severe burns that also pave the way towards long-term skin damage.
Because sunburn prompts an inflammatory response, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods to your diet— foods that contain a rich source of lycopene, astaxanthins, polyphenols, catechins and vitamins C and E, among others— help to minimize the unwanted effects of the sun.
Our guide outlines ingredients found in various foods to keep on hand when time in the sun is increased (AKA: summer), and some ideas for how to pair them with other ingredients to maximize absorption and beneficial effects.
Found in bright red fruits and vegetables
Lycopene, a carotenoid and antioxidant that neutralizes the free radicals produced from too much sun, is the bright red pigment that colors tomatoes, watermelons, papayas, guavas, rosehips and other vivid red fruits. It also minimizes the inflammatory response caused by UV damage, making these foods a summer staple when spending extra time outside.
Having these fruits available throughout the day not only works to protect the skin from too much sun exposure, but also keeps the body cool and hydrated.
BONUS! The effects of lycopene in tomatoes are magnified when slightly cooked or smashed into foods, making it much more bioavailable. They’re also better absorbed with the addition of healthy fats, like our new favorite high quality olive oil, Graza Olive Oil.
Found in wild-caught seafood and algaes
This potent antioxidant helps to prevent and combat sun damage— Astaxanthin is particularly rich in wild-caught salmon and shrimp. Wild caught seafood also contain their own host of complementary nutrients like vitamin D, iodine and other micronutrients, and when it comes to supplementation, we stock the highest quality Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil in capsule and liquid forms.
Micro-algaes such as chlorella and spirulina also contain astaxanthin, 550 times more powerful than Vitamin E, that has been shown to protect the skin and eyes against UV radiation. Add to summer smoothies, dressings and enjoy alone in purified water after a long day in the sun.
Found in fresh citrus and berries
Citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit are particularly high in free-radical fighting antioxidants and Vitamin C, which helps to reduce the potential for sunburn (especially when paired with Vitamin E). They also contain limonene, which has been associated with a decreased risk of skin cancer.
Strawberries, not only a wonderful source of antioxidants and Vitamin C, also contain special tannins that can help reduce the sting of a sunburn, so try mashing them up and then slathering on the affected area for natural relief. We also recommend Marie Veronique Vitamin C-Therapy for sun exposure repair.
Found in leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets
Carotenoids are antioxidants that have been found to reduce the negative effects of UVB radiation, while carotenes are un-oxygenated carotenoid compounds that provide pigment to fruits and vegetables that are used by plants as sunscreen.
Green leafy vegetables are particularly rich in carotenoid compounds known as xanthophylls. And not only are carrots beneficial for eye health, but they happen to be one of the best dietary sources of beta-carotene that protects the skin against free radical damage caused from sun exposure.
Check out this Summer Salad and Dressing Recipe by Allison Walton to spark ideas— or to cop whole cloth.
Found in green tea and cacao
Catechins contain disease-preventing properties that protect against sunburn inflammation and long-term UV radiation damage. Green tea also contains ECGCs that have been shown to stop genetic damage in human skin cells exposed to UV light.
We brew Boketto LAB Matcha year-round, and in the summer serve it chilled with a splash of rosewater and add pomegranate seeds to maximize the effects. Pomegranates contain ellagic acid, which can protect your skin from cell damage induced by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, in addition to glutathione, a powerhouse antioxidant that increases protection from free radical damage.
Cacao contains four times the amount of catechins as green tea, so a recommended daily serving of 2 ounces of Diaspora Co Anamalai Cacao not only provides the body with a host of antioxidants, but essential magnesium. Note: adding milk to the chocolate interferes with the absorption of its antioxidants. Instead try homemade raw chocolate; using cacao powder, melted coconut butter and adaptogenic herbs— blend together and freeze for quick bites any time.
Found in red grapes
Phytonutrients found in red grapes can slow down the formation of destructive reactive oxygen species that form in skin cells, which has been linked to sun damage and skin cancer. They also contain proanthocyanidins and other polyphenols (found in the grape’s seeds) that inhibit skin cancer induced by UV rays.
Keep red grapes in the freezer to use as ice cubes in summer tonics, and use fresh bunches of grapes to mix into summer salads or for a grab-and-go snack.
Found in almonds, spinach and avocado
A natural sun protectant, high amounts of Vitamin E is found in almonds, spinach and avocado. Vitamin E also helps to repair the skin from sun exposure. Additionally, almonds contain quercetin, which is shown to protect against UV damage and the wrinkle-causing breakdown of collagen.
Keep almonds in tow for sun-time snacking as well as incorporating leafy greens and avocados to pack in loads of nutrients that nourish and protect the body from the outside in.
Finally, Ion Skin Support is an all around powerhouse for pre- and post sun exposure. With humic extract from Ancient Soil, and Zinc + Copper Gluconate (among other ingredients) this is a must-have in-a-pinch product to have at-the-ready every summer.