Did you know that what you eat can affect how well your body responds to sun damage?
To explain how, let's back track a bit, back to high school physiology. Antioxidants are compounds that have the ability to defend the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals, if you remember are unstable electrons that wreak havoc on your body and cause aging. One huge source of free radicals is UV radiation from the sun. These cause inflammation, oxidative stress in the body, and a breakdown of the extracellular matrix, which leads to aging and skin cancer.
Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, helping to delay or even prevent cell damage in the body. If you are going to subject your skin to ultra violet radiation, be sure you have a lot of antioxidants in stock. One way to ensure this is through your diet. Diet is often overlooked as a way to combat environmental stressors like stress, pollution, and the sun. Here are the top 10 foods for staving off sun damage. When eaten before sun exposure, studies show they can alter the production of an enzyme that repairs UV-damaged skin
1. Berries 🍓
Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins and pro anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. They are also high in vitamin C which helps to prevent wrinkles. See the study on strawberries here.
2. Watermelon 🍉
There's a reason why that watermelon is thought of as a perfect summer snack! Watermelon contains an antioxidant called lycopene, which absorbs both UVA and UVB radiation. It takes several weeks for the skin to become photo protective, though so start eating watermelon daily in the spring time! Soon enough, you will have enough lycopene accumulated in the skin to serve as a sort of natural sunblock! Check out the study here. Researchers add that while it won't take the place of UPF clothing in preventing sun spots or sun damage, it will help with anti-aging and skin resiliency.
3. Nuts and Seeds 🥜
Walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds all contain omega-3 essentials fatty acids. Our bodies can't make omega-3s on their own, so it essential we get them from our diet. They are needed for strong skin and hair. They also help your body cope with sun exposure, maintain skin's integrity and are anti-inflammatory. Almonds are a great source of tocopherol, or vitamin E. It helps prevent cell membranes from oxidation, a fancy way of saying it protects your skin's integrity. Tocopherol concentrations are decreased with UV exposure but can be increased with oral delivery aka snacking. You can read more about this study here.
4. Red Grapes 🍇
Ever wonder how red grapes can stand the harsh sun for several weeks before turning into a raisin, yet it takes you only a couple hours? Red grapes are full polyphenols that provide sunburn-protective effects. Their skin can prevent UV-ray-activated reactive oxygen species (ROS) from forming and causing cell death. A study tested several antioxidants from grapes and found that they inhibited UVB- or UVA oxidation as well as inhibited the harmful compounds induced by UVB or UVA radiation.
5. Avocado 🥑
There's a reason beauty bloggers smother avocado masks on their face, but you can also reap the benefits from eating it! This fruit is packed with vitamin E, which is essential for preventing photo damage as well as keeping skin hydrated and equipped to fight crow's feet.
6. Carrots 🥕
Beta carotene found in carrots are converted by the body into vitamin A, which is essential to skin health. One metaanalysis found that beta carotene provided natural sun protection after 10 weeks of regular supplementation. If daily carrots are too much for you, there are other vegetables that are chock full of beta carotene like...
7. Leafy Greens 🥬
In addition to beta carotene, leafy greens like kale and spinach are also high in antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil boasts natural sun-blocking benefits. The plant oil contains squalene, a compound that you may see on the back of skin care creams. It possesses antioxidant powers and prevents skin cell death after to oxidative stress such as sun exposure. See the study here.
9. Cauliflower 🥦
Cauliflower contains antioxidants that help fight off oxidative stress from free radicals. Cauliflower is also jammed packed with an alpha-amino acid that stimulates something called urocanic acid, which absorbs UV radiation.
10. Green tea
Green tea is full of EGCG, a plant polyphenol that is a potent antioxidant. Studies found that green tea reduced skin damage from UVA light and protected against the decrease of collagen. Click here to see the study.