Sun

One of the best ways to prevent sun damage, while absorbing healthy vitamin D, and protect your skin, is with diet. Your body can actually create its own natural sunscreen with the right dietary components:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids–Research studies show that eicosapentaenoic acid (also called EPA), a kind of omega 3 fatty acid, helps prolong the time that it takes skin to get burnt during sun exposure, and also helps reduce the risk of skin cancer. The best omega 3 fatty acids containing EPA and DHA, are found in animal products such as grass-fed meat, cold-water, wild caught, fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, and free range chickens/eggs.
  • An optimal balance of omega 3’s to omega 6’s (3:1, or better) is critical for many, many health factors, including heart health and skin health. According to another study published in the American Health Foundation Journal:

“Epidemiological, experimental, and mechanistic data implicate omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) as stimulator’s and long-chain omega 3 PUFAs as inhibitors of development and progression of a range of human cancers, including melanoma”.

  • Eliminate vegetable oils in favor of grass fed butter, lard or tallow, and monosaturated fats like virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
  • Eat Carotenoids. Carotenoids are nutrients that protect plants and animals from excess sunshine. When we ingest carotenoids, they are deposited into the skin to prevent sunburn and oxidative stress, which can lead to wrinkles and skin cancer. Best sources of carotenoids are free-range organic eggs, dark-green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, baby greens and organic spinach), and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (mangoes, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash).

The most potent carotenoid is the red pigment found in salmon, trout, shrimp, and lobsters. It is known as astaxanthin. Once ingested, astaxanthin is 1,000 times more effective at protecting skin from UV damage than other carotenoids.

A research study by Köpcke & Krutmann concluded that beta-carotene is effective in protecting against sunburn and that time is important: the longer the duration of supplementation, the stronger the effect. A minimum of 10 weeks was needed to see results, and the protective effect increased with each additional month of supplementation.

  • Include lycopene in your diet. It’s pretty easy to get lycopene in the summer, since it is found in red fruits such as tomatoes, red bell pepper and watermelon. Lycopene’s potency is actually increased with cooking, so tomato sauce and tomato paste have more concentrated amounts of lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

In studies with lycopene, it was shown that people who consumed 55 grams (5 tablespoons) a day of lycopene in tomato paste had 33% more protection against sunburn compared to a control group after 12 weeks. It also boosted the level of procollagen in the skin, which suggests potential reversal of the skin aging process.

  • Drink 3-4 cups of green tea a day for its antioxidant and skin-protecting benefits. (It’s delicious iced and sweetened with stevia.) Green tea contains antioxidants called polyphenols that boost the ability of skin to protect itself from the sun. The polyphenols in green tea actually reduce the damage caused by ultraviolet rays and protect it from photo aging, both when applied externally as a topical cream or a lotion, and when consumed internally as food.
  • Snack on vitamin and flavanol-rich fruit this summer instead starchy carbohydrates and sugary snacks. Summer months bring us delicious, antioxidant-heavy berries and other fruit such as mangoes, kiwis, peaches and plums. These fruits are also rich in vitamin C, known for its role in building collagen, and preventing wrinkles and photo damage through its anti-inflammatory action. Toss some berries into your yogurt, make a smoothie out of different summer fruits, add some fruit to a lunch salad; the possibilities are endless.

Bottom line–if you must spend a long amount of time out in the summer sun, you will probably need to protect your skin with a sunscreen too. Most sunscreens contain inherent dangers as well, so choose carefully. While there is still some risk in spending long periods of time in the summer sun without sunscreen (even with a skin-healthy diet), the sunscreen itself can pose a bigger health risk. The chemicals in sunscreen are very harsh and are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, and have been proven to cause several types of cancers.

“Octyl-methacinnamate”, “phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid”, “octyl-dimethyl-PABA”, and “oxybenzone”, are all standard sunscreen ingredients. Numerous studies have raised concerns about these chemicals safety:

  • Octyl-methacinnamate has been shown to damage skin cells, and many people are highly sensitive or allergic to this ingredient.
  • Bensopenone-3 (BP3), homosalate (HMS), 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC), octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC), and octyl-dimethyl-PABA (OD-PABA) were all found to have estrogenic effects in the body, which can lead to certain cancers, including breast cancer.
  • Oxybenzone has been shown to decrease sperm count and lengthen the estrous cycle in mice; again a possible carcinogen in humans.

The best and most natural sunscreens are sunscreen products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. Both block UVA and UVB rays, are natural, safe products for your skin and have raised no health concerns.

So this summer, protect your skin inside and outside with a healthy diet and natural sunscreen when needed. You will not only soak up the vitamin D with all its health benefits, but have soft smooth skin as well.

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