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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Food As Sunscreen

Diet can help determine the effects that the sun has on our skin.

Studies show that certain compounds found in fruits, vegetables, green tea, and herbs can protect skin against damage from the sun's ultraviolet radiation without interfering with vitamin D production.

These compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and they modulate the immune system, helping to prevent cancerous changes. They also turn on genes that repair mutations in DNA.

Sun-protective compounds include vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and carotenoids like beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Find them in:
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc. 
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, beet greens, and kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cranberries
  • Pomegranate
  • Carrots
  • Black tea (hot or iced)

Making these foods a regular part of your diet will give you some natural defense against the sun, but it won't protect you completely. It's still important to stay out of the sun, especially mid-day when the rays are most intense, and use sunscreen liberally (apply 2 or 3 tablespoons of SPF 30 or higher every 2 hours).

If you do end up with a sun burn, foods can also be used to sooth and hydrate inflamed skin. Apply organic whole milk yogurt to affected areas or soak in an oatmeal bath. (Add a cup or more of dry oats to a sock and run your bathwater through it.)


Aiyer H.S. et al. 2008. Dietary berries and ellagic acid prevent oxidative DNA damage and modulate expression of DNA repair genes. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 9(3):327-41.

Dinkova-Kostova AT. 2008. Phytochemicals as protectors against ultraviolet radiation: versatility of effects and mechanisms. Planta Medica 74(13):1548-59.

Evans J.A. and Johnson E.J. 2010. The role of phytonutrients in skin health. Nutrients 2(8):903-28.

Offord E.A. et al. 2002. Photoprotective potential of lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and carnosic acid in UVA-irradiated human skin fibroblasts. Free Radical Biology and Medicine 32(12):1293-303.

Rizwan M. et al. 2011. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology 164(1):154-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10057.x.

Stahl W. et al. 2006. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences 5(2):238-42.

Stahl W. and Sies H. 2012. Photoprotection by dietary carotenoids: concept, mechanisms, evidence and future development. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 56(2):287-95. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100232.

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