Eat these Ten Power Foods to Protect the Skin From Sun Damage

Delivering antioxidants to protect the skin from sun damage

Credits: Daria-Yakovleva at
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,[1] and over 85% of melanoma skin cancers and 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are directly associated with damaging sun rays.[2] 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.[3]


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.[4] 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. 

1) Tomatoes

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.[5]

Credit:Red Tomatoes;Ivan Timov at

2) Berries

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.[6]

 Credit:Plate of multicolored berries on wooden table;Cecilia Par at

3) Carrots

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.[7]

Credit:Carrots inside wicker basket;jackmac34 at 

4) Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are another rich source of skin protecting beta-carotene and can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes.

 Credit:Sweet Potatoes in wooden barrel with price;sdnet01 at

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]

 Credit:Radishes on wooden table;Damien Creatz at

6) Watermelon

Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, which has been shown to protect the skin from the inside out.[10,11]

Credit:Sliced watermelon on wooden table;ponce_photography at 

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.[12] 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.[13]

 Credit:Three red apples;Roberta Sorge at

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]

 Credit:Green tea in glass pitcher;magaret_1974 at

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.[16] 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.[17] Look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa in order to get high flavanol content.

 Credit:Chocolate crumbs in masonjar;congerdesign at

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.[18]

  Credit:Flaxseeds in wooden bowl on top of wooden table;Pezibear at


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