Summer means fun in the sun, whether that includes a beach trip, days spent at the pool or a weekend hike in the mountains. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, so it's really important that you and your family protect yourselves during all your outdoor activities this summer.
Obviously, there's no substitute for using an SPF lotion that's appropriate for your skin -- liberally, every day (seriously... no skimping!). But bet you didn't know that what you eat can also do a lot to aid your skin in protection from the sun. If you're looking for some ways to up your skin protection via nutrition, you're in luck. Here are some foods you can eat to assist your body in both protecting itself from the sun and in repairing any damage.
Kiwi. When people think about vitamin C, they typically think about citrus fruits, like oranges. Kiwis actually have more vitamin C (about 127 milligrams compared to an orange's 80 milligrams). This antioxidant has been shown to protect and treat UV damage to your skin by increasing its capacity for fibroblasts to repair any damage done by the sun. Kiwis are the perfect fruit for a summer dessert. Mix them with any of your other favorite summertime fruits and throw together a guilt-free refreshing treat. If you're looking to take your skin-protecting kiwi on the go, pack a Happy Squeeze pouch when you're going to the beach. This flavor is super kiwi, banana and apple, which is great for a snack while you're taking a break from the sun.
Tomatoes. These juicy summertime favorites should be next on your summertime shopping list. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to visible and UV light and increases skin protection from the sun in several studies. Summer is the perfect time to pick up tomatoes at a local farmers market for optimal freshness. Toss them with fat-free feta cheese, olive oil and basil for a quick and light lunch.
Almonds. Almonds are packed with vitamin E, which contains antioxidants that repair sun damage. In fact, a quarter cup of almonds contains about 45 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin E, making them a perfect snack to bring to the beach. A great way to make sure you don't mindlessly overeat them is to choose almond snacks that are already portion controlled, such as Hail Merry almonds. One pack is only 130 calories, and they're packed with healthy fats and fiber. Another option is Artisana almond butter, which is delicious eaten with an apple or banana or spread on a whole-grain English muffin for breakfast.
Salmon. You've heard over and over that salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, but what you may not know is that omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects that may decrease sun sensitivity. Since sunburn and sun damage is essentially inflammation, a diet heavy in salmon might help both prevent and treat, as well as protect your skin from free-radical damage. If you're looking for an easy way to change up your summertime menu, salmon can be your new go-to dinner. It's versatile, easy to make, and is one of the healthiest (and lightest) proteins for an evening meal. Top a big green salad with a piece of steamed salmon with lots of lemon juice and herbs for an easy, but flavorful dinner.
Green Tea. A study funded by NIH and the National Cancer Institute found that "drinking green tea can reverse the effects of sun damage to the skin and prevent skin cancer." It does this by preventing UV radiation -- the induced suppression of the immune system, which is a risk factor for skin cancer. If tea is not your thing, try an EBOOST supplement. This packet of energy contains green tea AND vitamin C, so it'll work double time on protecting your skin. All you have to do is add it to your water bottle!
Cocoa. The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to fight skin cancer and shield skin from sun damage because they absorb UV light. But before you run out and grab the nearest candy bar, you should know that it's still possible to obtain the skin protecting benefits with a small portion (about three ounces). Looking for a pre- or post-workout snack to satisfy your sweet tooth? Try Balance Bar Dark. These varieties of yummy energy bars are packed with antioxidants, fiber, protein and will provide you with all the energy you need for whatever workout you choose.
Chia Seeds. Chia seeds are the new superfood superstar and for good reason. Not only do they provide lots of fiber, science is starting to realize that chia can be great for your skin, as well, since it's packed with antioxidants and omega-3s. Mix them with coconut milk and chill overnight in the fridge, then add fresh fruit for a summery take on your standard morning oatmeal. If you prefer something more portable, I'm a big fan of Health Warrior chia bars, which provide 1,000 milligrams of antioxidants in just about 100 calories per bar.
Raspberries. These delicious little berries contain a powerful combination of antioxidants and vitamin C to protect your skin from the sun and skin cancer. They are also packed with fiber (eight grams per cup) and are super easy to add into your daily snacks. Toss some into your nonfat yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal for refreshing natural sweetness. What I like to do is spread organic peanut or almond butter onto a whole-grain English muffin and add fresh raspberries on top instead of jelly. Another option is to pack Matt's Munchies Raspberry Delight to take with you to work for a 70-calorie snack with skin protection benefits.
Flax. If you haven't tried flax yet, this summer is the time to do it. The National Institute of Health states that flaxseed oil, in particular, can protect your skin against UV rays and keep your skin moisturized so it won't dry out. Best of all, you don't even have to cook this seed. If fact, you shouldn't because cooking it breaks down the nutrients. To eat your way to sun-protected skin, bring along Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips for an afternoon beach snack. They're gluten-free, and packed with nutrients like quinoa, sunflower seeds and flax seeds.
For more by Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, click here.
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