We all know that sunscreen, hats and sunglasses help protect our skin and eyes from sun damage, but did you know that the foods you eat may add an additional layer of protection from UV radiation? The nutrients in certain foods can influence your sun exposure and absorption, therefore it’s important to eat the right foods.
Olive oil may help protect your skin from damage and inflammation thanks to its high vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids content. It’s also loaded with antioxidants which may help prevent premature signs of ageing on the skin. I’d recommend adding a small amount to your salads or pasta dishes or drizzling some on your avocado toast. Just make sure you choose extra virgin olive oil!
It just so happens that our favourite smoothie bowl topping is also the one that may help protect us from too much sun exposure. Blueberries are rich in powerful antioxidants which help fight off free radicals that damage the skin when it’s exposed to the sun. Blueberries are also loaded with vitamin C, which helps boost collagen production in the skin and prevents fine lines and wrinkles.
Watermelons are not only sweet, hydrating and refreshing in the summer heat, but also packed with vitamin C and antioxidants like carotenoids. While most carotenoids are converted into vitamin A, others like lycopene, which gives watermelon its red pigment, stay the same. The best part is, lycopene has been shown to protect cells from UV damage.
Nuts and seeds, such as hazelnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E. They can help protect cells from sun damage and keep skin clear and supple. Macadamia nuts are very high in monounsaturated fats that can help cure skin inflammation and minimise the appearance of wrinkles. I’d recommend eating a handful of mixed nuts regularly or adding them to your salads.
Sweet potatoes contain large amounts of beta-carotene, compounds known for their orange-yellow-ish hue. They can help protect your eyes and skin from UV radiation. Sweet potatoes also contain a significant amount of vitamins with powerful anti-inflammatory properties which may inhibit the production of active inflammatory components due to sun exposure.
Green and black teas are high in polyphenols, which have been found to protect against UV radiation. Green tea contains the polyphenol EGCG, an antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage by reducing the formation of free radicals in the body. To get the most out of your green tea, avoid adding milk. Some studies have suggested that milk may reduce the antioxidant value in green tea.
This versatile vegetable is filled with lycopene and flavonoids, which help increase UV protection. We already talked about lycopene, but what are flavonoids? They are powerful antioxidants, which benefit the immune system and have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that diets rich in flavonoid-containing foods may be associated with cancer and neurodegenerative disease prevention. Enjoy tomatoes in a fresh summer salad with olive oil (extra virgin, of course), as a juice, or as a homemade pasta sauce.
Strawberries are one of the fruits highest in vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that helps the body boost collagen needed to keep the skin plumb and healthy. Research has shown that vitamin C may help to prevent cancer cells from forming within the body and delay ageing symptoms.
As mentioned above, eating these foods is no excuse to not apply sunscreen, or cover up with sunnies and hats. When it comes to spending time in the sun always be mindful and know when to re-apply your sunscreen or go back inside.
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