We all know how important it is to protect the skin against sun damage. According to World Health Organization figures, over 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, too much sun can also leave you with wrinkled, leathery skin that looks older than it really is.
Wearing sunscreen is an effective way to lower the risk of sun damage. But did you know that there is a completely natural way of giving your skin a little extra protection? Scientific studies have shown that certain foods can reduce the risk of sun damage by as much as one third. Read on to find out what should be on your plate this Summer.
Watermelon contains lycopene, which is extremely efficient at absorbing the free radicals produced by the skin when it is exposed to sun. By mopping up these harmful chemicals before they can cause damage, lycopene offers natural protection against sunburn.
Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, particularly when they are cooked. Researchers in England conducted a study and found that people who ate tomato paste every day for 12 weeks decreased their risk of sunburn by 33%.
3. Orange Foods
A recent review by German scientists uncovered a wealth of scientific literature documenting the protective effects of beta-carotene, a compound found in carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and pumpkins. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange color of these foods, so a good rule of thumb is to fill your plate with foods that are naturally orange.
4. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale contain xanthophylls. Scientists who fed xanthophylls to mice in a recent study found that the mice developed an increased protection to harmful UVB radiation.
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring is rich in Omega 3, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. A lot of skin damage occurs as a direct result of inflammation caused by burning. By eating two servings of fish a week, you can minimize the damage to your skin that occurs due to inflammation.
6. Walnuts and Flax seeds
What if you don’t eat fish? Or if you can’t get the kids to stomach it? Don’t despair: walnuts and flax seeds are also good sources of Omega 3.
7. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are packed full of vitamin C, which supports collagen health. Collagen â€“ the fibres in your skin that make it supple and elastic â€“ is broken down by UV radiation. This leads to sagging, wrinkled skin that looks old before its time. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation and repair of collagen, so if you want to stay looking young, include more citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and limes in your diet.
8. Green Tea
The health benefits of green tea are well-documented, but did you know that it’s also good for your skin? Polyphenols in tea reduce inflammation and soak up free radicals, which are produced when the skin is exposed to sun, before they can damage the skin.
Chocolate-lovers will be glad to hear that the antioxidants in cocoa help to reduce the redness and burning that results from too much Sun. Dark chocolate is best for this purpose because it has the highest cocoa content.
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2011 found that grapes contain chemicals that stop skin cells from dying when overexposed to sunlight. This could explain why Mediterranean people traditionally have low cancer rates, despite living in a sunny climate. So next time you’re on holiday, enjoy a glass of wine without guilt â€“ it could help to keep your skin healthy.