5 Foods To Help Protect Against Sun Damage

What you eat determines how firm, radiant and ageless your skin is. It influences the body's ability to make collagen and elastin, dictates how hydrated the skin cells are, and inhibits enzymes that cause wrinkles. Eat the wrong foods and you'll end up with lined, pigmented and sagging skin. Eat the right foods and you'll have clear, luminous and soft skin.

Food can also act as a sun protector, enhancing your sunscreen. Conversely, if you've forgotten to apply sunscreen, food can provide some natural sun protection. On my last beach vacation, I inadvertently applied moisturizer instead of sunscreen, and after spending seven hours in the sun, sans-suncreen, I only ended up with a pink face, which disappeared after 12 hours. Had I not been eating these sun-protecting foods, I would have done significantly more damage to my skin.

Here are five of the best foods to eat to provide natural, healthy sun protection.

Heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to reduce UV-induced free radicals by 40-50%. Lycopene is better absorbed with fat, so drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil. You need to eat about a cup to get the skin-protecting benefit. Heirloom tomatoes have more lycopene than conventional tomatoes.

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Watermelon

Another great source of lycopene, you need about three cups of watermelon for it to be effective. Eat watermelon as a delicious summer snack with fresh mint and a squeeze of lime.

Bell peppers

Bell peppers contain the antioxidant capsiate, which decreases UVB-induced skin damage and inhibits inflammation from sun exposure. Toss raw bell peppers into a spinach salad. You need a whole bell pepper for it to be effective.

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Pomegranate

The polyphenols in the pomegranate seeds protect the skin from both UVA and UVB free radicals. They can enhance the sun protection factor of sunscreen by up to 25% and also inhibit hyper-pigmentation. Snack on the seeds or toss them into a watercress salad. Pomegranate juice is an easy way to get the antioxidants, BUT without the seeds, there's no fiber and the juice converts too quickly to sugar leading to glycation and aging.

Wild salmon

This fish is rich in omega-3 fats, which inhibit inflammation from UVB rays by up to 52%. They also block the release of UV-induced enzymes that eat away at collagen, causing lines and sagging. Enjoy the wild salmon as ceviche or poached over microgreens.


Dana James

Triple Board Certified Functional Nutritionist
Dana James, MS, CNS, CDN is a Columbia University-educated nutritional therapist and founder of Food Coach NYC. She holds her Masters in Clinical Nutrition and is trained in nutrition biochemistry, functional medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy. She believes that food should be viewed as nourishing, joyful and fundamental to self-care. Her goal is to help women break their antagonist (and often obsessive) relationship with food and their body. She believes that true beauty stems from grace, dignity and embracing our idiosyncrasies that make us unique and imperfect. Dana created "How to Ditch Sugar" video series for mindbodygreen. Check out the program here: How to Ditch Sugar. Dana coaches one-to-one, runs workshops in NYC and LA, and holds teleseminars on various topics that help women lead a more beautiful and balanced life. To connect more with Dana, check out her Instagram account and sign up for her bi-weekly Sunday evening emails.
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