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Sun Protection From the Inside Out: 5 UV-Fighting Foods

February 26, 2014

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UV rays from the sun can damage skin cell's DNA, which can lead to wrinkles, rough skin, skin sagging, brown spots, and skin cancer. Topical sunscreens are one way to protect the skin from UV damage, but not only do they not provide complete protection, many sunscreens contain harmful chemicals that can actually increase your risk of cancer. There's even some concern over the safety of natural mineral sunscreens. Fortunately, you can increase your skin's defenses against the sun in a safe way by eating certain foods. "Sunscreen foods" contain antioxidants that neutralize the effects of UV rays, preventing skin damage, and can actually help repair existing skin damage. By eating the right foods, you can look younger and have healthier skin. Here are the top 5 foods to eat to protect your skin: 

Green Tea: Green tea is rich inpolyphenols, which are potent antioxidants. Research has shown that people who drink green tea have less skin color changes after sun exposure, softer skin, better skin elasticity, and better blood flow to the skin versus people who do not drink green tea. Drink at least a cup of green tea a day to get skin protection benefits. 

Tomato Paste: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is the phytonutrient that gives tomatoes their bright red color. This phytonutrient protects tomatoes from shriveling up under the sun while on the vine, and it also protects human skin from UV damage. You can get lycopene from eating raw tomatoes, but you get a higher concentration of it by eating tomato paste. Research has found that people who eat 5 tablespoons of tomato paste a day have 33 percent increased protection from the sun versus people who do not eat tomato paste. Eat all-natural ketchup and spaghetti sauce, both of which commonly contain tomato paste, to get your daily intake of lycopene. You can also take lycopene supplements, found in health food stores, to boost your daily intake. 

Raspberries: UV exposure causes the production of MMP (matrix metalloproteinase enzymes), which breaks down collagen in the skin, leading to wrinkles, skin roughness, and a reduction in skin elasticity. Raspberries contain an antioxidant called ellagic acid, which blocks the production of MMP enzymes. Raspberries are also rich in vitamin C, which helps fight off DNA damage to skin cells. Researchers have found that people who consume raspberries have less wrinkles, softer skin, and firmer skin than people who don’t consume raspberries. An added benefit of raspberries is that the high ellagic acid and vitamin C content also helps reduce the chances of cataracts forming in the eyes.

Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is rich inpolyphenols that protect the skin from UV damages. Researchers found that people who ate dark chocolate could stay in the sun twice as long without sunburn than those who did not eat dark chocolate. For the most skin protection, look for dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. 

Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation in the skin after exposure to UV rays and help preserve the body’s ability to fight off skin cancer. Eat a handful walnuts a day to boost your body’s skin cancer fighting abilities. Raw, organic walnuts are best.

For best results, you should eat some of these sun-damage-fighting foods everyday. Besides the UV protection benefits, they also contain nutrients and antioxidants that benefit your entire body, so it's a win-win!

Have you found natural alternative to protect your skin from the sun?