By this point in the summer, if you’re an outdoor lover, your skin is probably feeling a wee bit battered. All that sunshine is good for the soul but it can leave your skin looking dry, leathery and prone to wrinkles and skin cancer. You know by now that the power of plants can help support the body’s own natural repair mechanisms and fight chronic disease…so can food protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays too?
As it turns out, it can. Components of plant and marine foods have been shown to combat DNA damage, fight inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer cell development, which all may be associated with UV exposure. So, with six more weeks of summer left to go, why not try and nourish your skin a bit better?
Let’s keep it simple for these lazy summer days: start with these three delicious foods daily to help fend off the ravages of summer sun exposure.
1. Green Tea
Want a perfect summer sipper? Keep a big batch of iced green tea in your fridge. Brew 4 cups of green tea with 8 tea bags for five minutes. Add 2 tbsp of maple syrup or honey if you like. Let cool and then top up with an additional 4 cups of water and chill with some lemon slices. Drink a few cups per day.
Green tea contains a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short, helps to protect the DNA in your skin from damage upon UV exposure. One study, done in an animal model, found that EGCG was able to fend off non-melanoma skin cancer.
2. Raw cacao
Ain’t nothing wrong with the recommendation to eat chocolate daily! However, there is a big caveat: most of the evidence showing the health benefits of chocolate doesn’t necessarily translate to your candy aisle. The reason for this is that most of the research focuses on flavanoid compounds in the cacao bean…which may be processed out of your daily treat.
For this reason, stick to non-alkali (non-Dutch process) cocoa, raw cacao or raw chocolate which will not be subjected to excessive processing, making it more likely that your chocolate treat contains the flavonoids that help fight inflammation, protect against UV damage and boost microcirculation in the skin. You can add cocoa nibs or cacao to smoothies, snack on raw chocolate or make your own raw energy truffles.
There is no better time to eat tomatoes than summer. A sun-kissed, vine-ripened tomato is a thing of culinary beauty that cannot be matched by the mealy, flavourless orbs we find most of the year. And, as luck would have it, tomatoes are pretty darn great for your skin.
The key is lycopene, which is higher in tomatoes than other fruits. In a 2011 study, women consuming tomato paste daily had less UV skin damage. So eat garden fresh tomatoes in abundance…and don’t be afraid to cook them down with a bit of olive oil to concentrate their lycopene. And the rest of the year? Since the most concentrated form of lycopene is tomato paste, you can easily add it to your everyday cooking to keep the skin benefits coming!
Now, before you go and toss your sunscreen out the window, know that these foods help protect your skin when eaten over time. Your best – and most trustworthy – defender against UV-induced aging and cancer risk is sunscreen. Think of these foods as the cleaning crew: they help mop up the mess that might have snuck past your screen.
To your health,