The food you eat can make a dramatic impact on how your skin looks. Certain foods, in particular, can promote the production of collagen and elastin, and help keep your skin cells hydrated – even inhibiting enzymes that can cause wrinkles!
The wrong foods, on the other hand, can lead to lined, sagging, and pigmented skin. As if there wasn’t enough pressure to eat healthy already!
While all of this may not be news to you, especially if you’re health-conscious, what may surprise you is the knowledge that certain foods can enhance your skin’s natural sun protection.
Foods rich in antioxidants are great for your skin. Antioxidants are what protect plants from sun-related damage, and when you consume these nutrients, they work similarly within your own body.
According to a 2009 review:
“Polyphenols are secondary metabolites of plants and are generally involved in defense against ultraviolet radiation or aggression by pathogens… Epidemiological studies and associated meta-analyses strongly suggest that long term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols offer protection against development of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases.”(1)
Furthermore, the concept of dietary protection against UV radiation has been gaining ground since at least 2004, when a study in the Annual Review of Nutrition stated:
“Skin is continuously exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the major cause of skin disorders such as sunburn, photodamage, and nonmelanoma skin cancer… In the absence of topically added compounds, skin protection depends solely on endogenous defense. Micronutrients can act as a UV absorbers, as antioxidants, or can modulate signaling pathways elicited upon UV exposure… Dietary protection is provided by carotenoids, tocopherols, ascorbate, flavonoids, or n-2 fatty acids, contributing to maintenance resistance as part of lifelong protection.”(2)
Yet another study, this one from 2011, has revealed that specific herbs can provide special protection from UV radiation as well(3). Here’s a list of five foods with skin-protecting qualities:
1. Heirloom Tomatoes
Rich in the antioxidant lycopene – shown to reduce UV-related free radicals by up to 50 percent – heirloom tomatoes are right up there in terms of skin-protecting foods. Lycopene is best absorbed with fat, so serve your tomatoes in a salad with some avocados or drizzle them with olive oil before serving.
2. Pomegranate Seeds
Pomegranate seeds are full of polyphenols which protect your skin from all sorts of free radicals. They can help enhance the effects of sunscreen by up to 25%, and on top of all of that they make a perfect summer snack. If you’re not keen on eating the seeds, you can drink pomegranate juice as an easy means of getting the same antioxidants – although without the seeds, you don’t get nearly as much dietary fiber.
Another fantastic source of lycopene, although you need to eat a lot of watermelon to get an effective dose – about three cups worth.
4. Bell Peppers
Containing the antioxidant capsiate, bell peppers can decrease UVB-related skin damage and also inhibit inflammation caused by sun exposure.
5. Wild Salmon
Whether you eat this in ceviche or poached over a bed of fresh greens, you’ll get plenty of omega-3 fats from this food – nutrients which inhibit inflammation from UVB rays by about 50 percent.
All of these are delicious and low in saturated fats, so enjoy plenty of them this summer while you bask in the sun. And don’t forget to use a good, natural sunscreen for extra protection!