Just a couple weeks ago we told you about some of the best superfoods for anti-aging. This time around, let’s focus on protecting your skin from sun damage. In the U.S. alone, each year, over 1 million new cases of potentially deadly skin maladies are reported.
What are some of the reasons this is so prevalent? No, it’s not simply because of the sun. After all, people are probably spending less time outdoors than ever before. Actually, perhaps this is one reason why; less time in the sun makes the skin more sensitive and more vulnerable to damage.
Here are some other working theories:
- Poor dietary and lifestyle choices: The skin is the body’s largest organ. The body, in its attempt to detoxify expels toxins it can’t eliminate via the stool through the next easiest route of escape: the skin. Is the sun being unfairly blamed for all the skin problems? The culpability lies perhaps more with junk food and excess alcohol consumption.
Depletion of the ozone layer (this one can’t be blamed on junk food.)
- People are living longer.
But let’s not give the sun a free pass. Without doubt, ultraviolet radiation causes DNA damage. The good news is that if you eat a diet rich in superfoods every day, you may increase your chances of preventing sun damage to your skin.
(This isn’t to say that even if you eat nothing but superfoods each and every day, you’re 100% guaranteed to not die from skin maladies. In fact, just like every health article on our blog, the information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.)
The following foods have the backing of research studies to boost the body’s natural protection against UV light.
Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says a compound in broccoli sprouts (isothiocyanate sulforaphane) reduces sensitivity to erythema, which is the superficial reddening of the skin, the first sign of sunburn.
Another study confirms these findings. The title of the research says it all: Dietary glucoraphanin-rich broccoli sprout extracts protect against UV radiation-induced skin carcinogenesis.
Flax Sprouts and Seeds
Flax seed oil may be useful for preventing photoreactive damage, says this study.
Spinach & Kale
Just as we highlighted green leafy veggies in our post about the best superfoods for anti-aging, these superfoods also may help prevent sunburn. Spinach and kale and other leafy greens are rich in the phytonutrient, beta carotene. Research in Nutrients says beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) is a photoprotective agent (protects you not against cameras, but rather the sun). The compound is thought to prevent free radical damage generated by UV exposure.
Maca is an adaptogenic herb that’s more well-known for its stamina and libido-enhancing effects. According to research in this mouthful of a journal: Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, maca makes for an excellent natural sunscreen. In a study on rats, it prevented UV irradiation. “Maca can be suggested as an alternative means of solar protection,” concludes the study authors.
Mushrooms not only help boost your immune system, they also may help prevent UV damage. In this study in Cytotechnology, 29 bioactive components in edible mushrooms were shown to prevent damage in HaCaT cell lines. This particular cell line is found in keratin, a protein in human skin, and is widely used in scientific research. The researchers discovered that ‘Shrooms protect HaCaT cells from UVB-induced cellular deterioration.
Pomegranates, says this research, possess antioxidants known as anthocyanins and tannins, which have anti-tumor promoting properties. These antioxidants may protect your skin from cell damage induced by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
Citrus & Berries
This study shows raspberries may prevent skin cell protein oxidation under UVB exposure. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which research has found that with long-term intake can reduce the potential for sunburn. A study on an older population living in the America Southwest concluded that the more citrus the seniors ate, the less chance they had of developing squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
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One of the best functional foods for skin health, green tea may also help protect you from sunburn. Green tea contains potent antioxidants called epicatechins. There’s one particular epicatechin in green tea called EGCG. EGCG is the most abundant epicatechin.
Research in Biochemical Pharmacology concludes that in various animal studies, treatment with EGCG inhibits tumor incidence and multiplicity induced by UV radiation.
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We haven’t added tomato paste to any of our superfood offerings yet. But for sun protection, it’s right at the top. Compared to tomatoes, tomato paste has much more of the carotenoid that gives tomatoes their rich, red color: lycopene.
Lycopene not only prevents UV damage, it also helps repair it.
We haven’t figured out a way to make salmon powder palatable yet. Not that it’s been on the drawing board. However, the Omega-3 essential fatty acids in wild salmon prevent the immune system from weakening after being exposed to UV radiation for a long time. We don’t think of carotenoids in wild salmon. But salmon eat algae, which contains carotenoids. The reason why wild salmon has the pinkish-reddish tint is the same reason why tomatoes are red: it’s the carotenoids!
Wild salmon contains a hearty amount of the carotenoid called astaxanthin. Studies like this one say astaxanthin protects cells from UV damage.
Keep in mind that if you have sensitive skin, these foods are not meant to be a substitute for sunscreen. But eating superfoods everyday will reduce your risk of UV damage.
Do expose some of your skin to the sun before applying sunscreen to synthesize vitamin D. When choosing a sunscreen, splurge for one that won't damage coral reefs, even if you live far away from a coral reef. If it's coral-safe, it's safe for your skin.