Gone are the days of slathering your body in oil and baking in the sun for hours. Today, when heading out the door on a sunny day, you might have your hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and beach umbrella to keep harmful UV rays away. But one important summer item that many forget to pack is food that acts like sunscreen! Don’t underestimate the power of seasonal ingredients to keep skin hydrated and protected from the inside out this summer.
Ultraviolet rays from tanning beds and overexposure of the sun’s rays penetrate the skin and can lead to premature aging, DNA damage, eye damage, inflammation and even skin cancer. But, although it can have some negative effects, humans need the sun to survive, and so do our food, our plants, animals and everything else that planet earth houses. As a Holistic Nutritionist and Health Coach, I encourage everyone to get out into the sun daily for at least 20 minutes for its numerous mental and physical health benefits, as long as you have your topical protection and you are eating the foods that will boost your ability to prevent sun damage.
I am not suggesting you eat your topical sunscreen, but there are certain foods that provide the nutrients our skin and body need to combat inflammation, boost immunity and possibly repair skin that has already been damaged. Before you head out to the beach this summer, gobble up these skin-loving ingredients to add that extra layer of protection from the inside out.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient that helps boost your immune system, helps to increase the proteins in the body responsible for DNA repair, and is considered to be photoprotective, meaning it protects from UV damage. Topically, zinc provides a thick, protective barrier, which is why many broad-spectrum sunscreens contain this natural element. When you are packing a beach picnic this season, include zinc-rich foods like roasted chickpeas, sprinkle pumpkin seeds on your crisp summer salads, or collect some fresh oysters to shuck for dinner.
Found in wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, ground flax, and walnuts, omega-3s help fight inflammation, which is the link to melanoma. They also act as a natural moisturizer for your cell membranes, which your skin will love after a few days out in the drying sunshine. If you do get too much sun, eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids will help speed up the recovery time and reduce the severity of a sunburn.
Found in tomatoes, grapefruit, papaya and watermelon, lycopene fights inflammation and can even protect the skin against sunburns due to its free-radical fighting properties. The superpower of this antioxidant is that it absorbs UVA and UVB radiation. This summer, cool off with a frozen papaya smoothie, or add a squeeze of grapefruit to liven up your soda water.
Antioxidants help to reduce inflammation and neutralize free radical damage that comes from pollution and UV rays. You will find these protective nutrients in highly pigmented fruits and vegetables, so aim to eat a rainbow of foods each day for the most benefits. One antioxidant, vitamin C, supports the production of collagen in the skin, leading to less wrinkles, when used topically and when consumed as part of a regular diet. Top every dish with fresh herbs and garlic, squeeze fresh lemon on your grilled fish, add colourful bell peppers to your veggie kebabs and get in all your deep, leafy greens in your seasonal salads.
- Green Tea
Green tea contains polyphenols, called catechins, that are chemopreventive plant compounds, meaning that it may protect against skin cancer and sun damage. Drinking green tea during the summer months can boost UVR protection, lower inflammation, boost immunity and protect against DNA damage from UV exposure. Topically, green tea benefits oily skin as its tannins help to draw moisture. To use on your skin, try steeping a pot of green tea and let it cool. Use cotton pads to cleanse and tone your face to help restore balance. To use as a refreshing summer sipper, steep a pot of green tea and let it cool in the fridge. Add a big squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, and some muddled mint leaves.
Quenching foods are the ones made mostly of water. They are a great addition to your regular water consumption, while adding flavour, vitamins and minerals. In the summer heat, we need all the hydration we can get, so be sure to include coconut water, watermelon, cucumber, juicy seasonal fruit, celery and lettuces to your menu. Topically, cucumbers are very soothing and hydrating on skin that saw a little too much sun.
Jen Casey is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner. She focuses on holistic, diet-free approaches to weight loss and balancing hormones through nutrition and lifestyle. Book a free 30-minute one-on-one nutrition appointment with Jen or one of our other nutritionists at naturesfare.com.
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.