Soaking up the sun’s rays is good for the body in moderation but it is important to protect the skin from sunburn and sun damage. If the skin becomes sunburned too often, the results are unsightly peeling, freckling, wrinkling and premature aging and can even result in skin cancer. Using sun block that contains a high sun protection factor (SPF) is imperative but there are also certain foods that can help prevent the risk of sunburn as well as the risk of developing skin cancer.
Foods that Lower the Risk of Sunburn and Skin Cancer
Studies have found that certain foods can actually help protect against sunburn and can prevent skin damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer. These foods include:
According to the University of Michigan, research has found that lycopene and other antioxidants found in tomatoes can actually help prevent the skin from becoming sunburned. The study found that people who consumed 40 grams of tomato paste each day containing at least 16 milligrams of lycopene had more protection against ultraviolet rays than people who hadn’t consumed tomato paste. Other foods that are rich in lycopene include watermelon, pink grapefruit, salmon and egg yolks.
Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids which are powerful antioxidants that protect the cells in the body from the damage of free radicals and also enhance the immune system. One study found that consuming carotenoids, specifically beta-carotene, in amounts of up to 90 milligrams a day helped to reduce the risk of sunburn. Foods rich in carotenoids include melons, apricots, carrots, red peppers, squash and sweet potatoes. It is recommended to eat five servings each day.
Green, Leafy Vegetables
Eating green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and chard helps to protect the skin from squamous cell cancer by up to 50 percent. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, squamous cell cancer is the second most common form of skin cancer in the U.S. Eating broccoli is also an excellent way to protect the skin. Paul Talalay, MD of John Hopkins University has extensively studied the effects of broccoli in preventing skin cancer. He recommends eating one-half cup of broccoli each day to protect against skin cancer.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research published in Carcinogenesis: Oxford Journalsfound that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids help to prevent the skin from the damages of sunburn as well as from skin cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids also help to reduce inflammation which can be caused by sunburn. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include herring, mackerel, salmon, trout and sardines as well as walnuts. It is recommended to eat at least two servings of these foods each week.
Green tea is rich in polyphenols that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities that can both protect the skin from sunburn and from skin cancer. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, drinking two cups per day of green tea can reduce the risk of skin cancer by 30 percent. Topical use of green tea extract has also been found to help increase prevention of sunburn when added to a sunscreen lotion.
Foods that prevent sunburn and skin cancer should not be a substitute for using a quality SPF sun block lotion, but instead should be eaten as an additional preventive measure. Adding these foods to your regular diet is a healthy way to prevent sunburn and skin cancer as well as providing your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Skin Cancer Foundation – Skin Cancer Facts
Study of Omega-3 fatty acids and sunburn protection
UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E
Cutaneous photoprotection from ultraviolet injury by green tea polyphenols
University of Michigan – Sunburn