Eat these Ten Power Foods to Protect the Skin From Sun Damage
Delivering antioxidants to protect the skin from sun damage
Edited By:Raja Sivamani , MD, MS, AP
Sun Exposure is Directly Associated with Most Skin Cancers and Signs of Aging
One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer, and over 85% of melanoma skin cancers and 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are directly associated with damaging sun rays. In addition to risk for skin cancer, exposure to ultraviolet rays is also the culprit for signs of aging which includes: wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sagging skin, and vascular problems.
You Can Protect Your Skin From the Inside Out
In addition to seeking shade and diligently applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen each day, you can achieve added protection by eating foods that naturally protect against harm caused by ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet rays from the sun cause oxidative damage to our skin, creating reactive oxygen species that impair cells, DNA, and structural components within the skin. By eating plants containing protective antioxidants, we can increase the antioxidant capacity of our bloodstream and tissues to have greater protection. The following ten foods not only provide powerful and important nutrients for overall wellness but also contain key compounds that can naturally prevent damage caused by harmful sun rays.
Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which is believed to exert sun protecting benefits. In a study published by the British Journal of Dermatology, 20 women who ate 4 tablespoons of tomato paste every day for 3 months had significantly less sunburn when exposed to ultraviolet radiation than women who did not eat the tomato paste.
Berries (as well as oranges and kiwis) are rich in antioxidant vitamin C and a powerful antioxidant called ellagic acid, which has potential anti-skin cancer benefits.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which prevents sun damage and photoaging. In a Korean study, 30 women who received about six carrots worth of beta-carotene daily (30 mg per day) for 3 months had improvement in signs of photoaging.
4) Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another rich source of skin protecting beta-carotene and can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes.
5) Deeply Colored Vegetables
Next time you go to the farmer’s market or produce aisle, pick out the richest and deepest colored vegetables you can find – think kale, purple cabbage, radishes, and squash. The deeper and richer the color, generally the more antioxidants they contain, such as lutein and zeaxanthin.[8,9]
Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, which has been shown to protect the skin from the inside out.[10,11]
7) Red Delicious Apples
The beautiful scarlet colored skin of Red Delicious apples contains a compound called triterpenoids, which were shown in a study to block and kill cancer cells. Another family of potent antioxidants in red apple peels are anthocyanins, which also have cancer preventative benefits, and is a healthy addition to your daily diet for improved skin health.
8) Green Tea
Green tea is a skin-protecting ingredient, thanks to powerful compounds called EGCG and catechins, which contributes to protection against skin cancer by fighting free radicals and decreasing inflammation.[14,15]
9) Dark Chocolate
In moderation (only a few ounces per week), dark chocolate provides antioxidants called flavonoids and phenolic phytochemicals, even more than black tea and green tea. In one study, 30 healthy subjects were given either “high flavanol” chocolate or “low flavanol” chocolate levels for 3 months. The women who received the flavanol-rich chocolate had significantly less skin redness upon sun exposure compared to the low flavanol group. Look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa in order to get high flavanol content.
10) Flax Seeds
Flax seeds (along with walnuts and fish) are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. There is evidence that people with diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have a reduced risk of developing skin cancer.
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- Koh HK, Geller AC, Miller DR, et al. Prevention and early detection strategies for melanoma and skin cancer. Current status. Arch Dermatol.1996;132(4):436-443; PMID: 8629848.
- Flament F, Bazin R, Laquieze S, et al. Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol.2013;6:221-232; PMID: 24101874.
- Link to research. Accessed April 14, 2017
- Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, et al. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol.2011;164(1):154-162; PMID: 20854436.
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- Ascenso A, Pedrosa T, Pinho S, et al. The Effect of Lycopene Preexposure on UV-B-Irradiated Human Keratinocytes. Oxid Med Cell Longev.2016;2016:8214631; PMID: 26664697.
- Perkins-Veazie P, Collins JK. Lycopene content differs among red-fleshed watermelon cultivars. Science of Food and Agriculture.2001;81(10):983-987; PMID.
- He X, Liu RH. Triterpenoids isolated from apple peels have potent antiproliferative activity and may be partially responsible for apple's anticancer activity. J Agric Food Chem.2007;55(11):4366-4370; PMID: 17488026.
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- Clarke KA, Dew TP, Watson RE, et al. Green tea catechins and their metabolites in human skin before and after exposure to ultraviolet radiation. J Nutr Biochem.2016;27:203-210; PMID: 26454512.
- Roh E, Kim JE, Kwon JY, et al. Molecular mechanisms of green tea polyphenols with protective effects against skin photoaging. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.2017;57(8):1631-1637; PMID: 26114360.
- Lee KW, Kim YJ, Lee HJ, et al. Cocoa has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas and red wine. J Agric Food Chem.2003;51(25):7292-7295; PMID: 14640573.
- Williams S, Tamburic S, Lally C. Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. J Cosmet Dermatol.2009;8(3):169-173; PMID: 19735513.
- Black HS, Rhodes LE. Potential Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer. J Clin Med.2016;5(2)PMID: 26861407.