What you eat has a big effect on how firm, radiant, and ageless your skin is. The types of foods you choose influence your body’s ability to make collagen and elastin, dictate how hydrated your skin cells are, and can even inhibit enzymes that cause wrinkles. Eat the right foods and you’ll have clear, luminous, and soft skin. Certain foods can also enhance your skin’s natural sun protection, boosting its ability to ward off the damages of UV exposure.
Plants use antioxidants to protect against sun damage, so when you eat more plants, you eat their antioxidants, and they work similarly within your body. So the more plants you eat, the more natural sun protection your skin will have.
On my last beach holiday, I inadvertently applied moisturizer instead of sunscreen, and after spending seven hours in the sun sans suncreen, I only ended up with a pink face which disappeared after 12 hours. Had I not been eating sun-protecting foods, I would have done significantly more damage to my skin. (Of course, you should never intentionally skip a broad spectrum sunscreen!)
For maximum enhanced sun protection, eat these five foods on a regular basis:
Tomatoes (and especially heirloom tomatoes) are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to reduce UV-induced free radicals by 40-50%. Lycopene is better absorbed with fat, so drizzle your tomatoes with olive oil. You need to eat about a cup to get the sun-protecting benefit.
These seeds contain polyphenols that help protect the skin from both UVA and UVB free radicals. They can enhance the sun protection factor of sunscreen by up to 25% and also inhibit hyperpigmentation. Snack on the seeds or toss them into a watercress salad. Pomegranate juice is also an easy way to get the antioxidants, but without the seeds, there’s no fiber, so the juice converts too quickly to sugar. This leads to glycation, which contributes to aging of the skin.
The queen of summer fruits, watermelon is another great source of lycopene. You need about three cups for it to be effective. Enjoy watermelon as a delicious summer snack with fresh mint and a squeeze of lime. (Or try this refreshing smoothie!)
These peppers contain the antioxidant capsiate, which decreases UVB-induced skin damage and inhibits inflammation from sun exposure. Toss raw bell peppers into a spinach salad. You need a whole bell pepper for it to be effective.
Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fats which inhibit inflammation from UVB rays by up to 52%. These fats also block the release of UV-induced enzymes that eat away at collagen, causing increased wrinkles and sagging. Enjoy wild salmon in ceviche or poached over microgreens. (Or try this perfect date night mealthat’s not only UV-protecting, but also libido-enhancing.)
If you want to go all out and eat a sun-protecting meal, try poached wild salmon with a tomato and bell pepper salad drizzled in olive oil, followed by a watermelon and pomegranate salad tossed in fresh lime juice. Enjoy!
Have fun in the sun but be smart and wear a great SPF!