How to Eat #5: Eating Nature's Sunblock
So you want to protect your skin naturally and are wondering if diet can be of any help. Great! You are absolutely correct; diet affects everything, and our skin is no exception. First, it helps to understand how and why certain foods can help to protect your skin for the sun's UV rays. Basically, you want to ingest nutrition, in the form of antioxidants, that will protect skin cells from damage and aging. Antioxidants reduce free radicals, which are oxidized molecules that damage your cells.
Two particular antioxidants thought to protect skin cells from both disease and aging are ellagic acid and lycopene. A study conducted by the English universities of Manchester and Newcastle found that cooked tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, as well as the protein procollagen, which is an important part of maintaining skin structure. It is important that the tomatoes are cooked, as the lycopene in raw tomatoes is bound in such a way that is difficult for the human body to use. When the lycopene is accessible, it can neutralize free radicals formed when UV radiation hits skin.
The benefits of ellagic acid were supported by the findings of a study out of Hallyum University in the Republic of Korea. The researchers discovered that ellagic acid blocks the production of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes, which break down collagen in damaged skin cells. It seems that ellagic acid also reduces the expression of ICAM - a molecule involved in inflammation.
Numerous sources of both of these antioxidants are easily found in the grocery store: Pink, red, and orange fruit Raspberries Blueberries Tomatoes Strawberries Cranberries Pomegranates Watermelon Cantaloupe Guava Red, yellow, orange peppers Omega-3 fatty acids Nuts Trout Sardines Avocadoes Salmon Mackerel Herring Leafy green veggies Spinach Broccoli Tea Green tea Black tea Chocolate Dark chocolate Although you might think that they'd be on the list, orange, lemon, grapefruit, and other acidic fruits might actually irritate the skin that comes into contact with the sun. While they offer many other health benefits, it may be better to rely on the fruits listed above to increase your skin's sun shielding abilities. It's a good idea to make a habit of eating these foods before you begin spending large amounts of time in the sun.
Ideally, you would have three months worth of antioxidant power running through your system when you spend that first long day on the beach. Eating foods to help your skin protect itself from UV rays will provide huge support for other protective measures (remember to still apply a gentle and natural sunscreen about a half hour before long sun exposure). Your body's supply of antioxidants will be a great way to keep your skin healthy everyday this summer!