Eat Your Sunscreen!


Foods that boost the SPF of your skin - from the inside out!

Eating the right foods can help us improve our skin from the inside out - even boosting the natural SPF of our skin! Foods that are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and omega-3s can help to provide an added layer of protection for the skin from UV damage, and may also help to repair UV damage, and prevent the signs of aging.

Antioxidants - An Army Against Free Radicals

Antioxidants such as carotenoids give foods their vibrant colors, and are critical to the photosynthetic process, protecting a plant from damage by light and oxygen. By consuming plants or organisms that contain these pigments, people can gain a similar protective benefit. Antioxidants and other key nutrients protect cells from oxidation, encourage cell growth, fight inflammation and boost our skin’s ability to prevent free radical damage. When the skin is exposed to the sun or other sources of radiation, this causes free radicals to form - which can damage the membranes of skin cells and harm the DNA of that cell. Antioxidants slow or prevent the effect of free radicals and oxidation - which can lead to cell dysfunction. We can see oxidation in action when a sliced apple turns brown. But a little squeeze of lemon juice can prevent the oxidation - providing antioxidant protective-effects. Oxidative stress appears to be an important part of many human diseases - linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, macular degeneration, as well as the signs of aging. In addition to helping fortify cells against free radicals, antioxidants also encourage cell and tissue growth, helping the body to repair itself.

Eating an antioxidant-rich diet - commonly found in fruits and vegetables and other foods - can protect and repair the cellular walls. Important antioxidants for boosting the SPF of the skin include:

Lutein

An important antioxidant found in egg yolks and vegetables such as kale, broccoli, carrots and spinach that helps us to maintain healthful eyes, teeth, bones and skin as we age.

  • According to Dr Salvador Gonsalez of Harvard University, “Lutein has been widely recognized for its eye health benefits for several years. But, our data is the first of its kind to suggest that lutein may have the potential to act as a preventative agent against UVB-induced skin cancer. In addition, these data suggest that lutein protects the skin against damage caused by exposure to UVB light, further validating our position that lutein is a critical component to overall skin health."

  • Lutein appears to be sensitive to cooking and storage. Prolonged cooking of green, leafy vegetables appears to reduce the lutein content. Eggs are best when not overcooked to preserve more of the lutein in the yolks.

  • For individuals lacking sufficient lutein intake, lutein-fortified foods are available, or a sublingual spray is available.

Zeaxanthin

Another carotenoid antioxidant with skin-friendly properties, shows up in yellow-orange foods such as orange peppers, carrots, and squash.

  • A study published in the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found that supplementation of lutein and zeaxanthin provided a four-fold increase in protection from UV radiation-induced skin damage, and a six-fold increase in protection when a topical application of the nutrients was added.

Astaxanthin

Perhaps the least well-known member of the carotenoid family, but is poised to be the new superstar of antioxidants with reports suggesting it has anywhere between 10 – 500 times the activity compared to other antioxidants.

  • Derived from algae, is believed to be potentially 100 times more effective than vitamin E in free radical scavaging.

  • Astaxanthin reduces the harm caused by UV radiation, so it works as an internal nutritional sunscreen - boosting the skin's tolerance to ultraviolet radiation.

  • Wild fish like salmon get their deep color from eating krill and shrimp - high in astaxanthin. Wild salmon are 400 percent higher in astaxanthin than farmed salmon, and 100 percent of their pigment is natural astaxanthin, rather than synthetic. Farmed salmon color is typically added from artificial sources. Synthetic astaxanthin is used to supplement fish feeds in order to obtain the desired pinkish to orange-red color. But synthetic astaxanthin is made from petrochemicals. Natural astaxanthin is better for the health of the animals, and it's far superior for pigmentation. Animals fed fish food with natural astaxanthin have higher survival rates, better growth rates, better immunity, fertility and reproduction.

  • Astaxanthin multiplies the effects of vitamin C and E in the body. It also lowers LDL cholesterol and protects lipid peroxidation.

  • Eating algae such as chlorella, spirulina and other types can also deliver astaxanthin.

Lycopene

Perhaps best known for it's heart health benefits - lycopene is also from the carotene family, and is an excellent free radical scavenger - it is at least twice as effective an antioxidant as beta-carotene.

  • A 2008 study found that consuming a lycopene-rich tomato paste had 33% more sun protection than the control group (who consumed olive oil).

  • Found in tomatoes (absorbed better cooked), watermelon, grapefruit, guava, and red cabbage - lycopene may also help prevent osteoporosis and reduce the severity of allergy symptoms.

  • The recommended amount is 25 to 75 mg of lycopene each day in your diet.

Polyphenols

Powerful botanical antioxidants, polyphenols offer protection against free radical exposure to help prevent skin aging and boost the skin's antioxidant protection from the inside out.

  • Green tea, black tea, cacao or dark chocolate are good sources of polyphenols.

  • Recommended dose - 2 ounces of dark chocolate a day! Now that is a prescription I can handle! The higher the cacao content in the dark chocolate, the most polyphenols.

Beta-carotene

Believed to have the ability to diffuse UV light, beta carotene can help prevent burning and counteract the damaging and aging effect of the sun's rays.

  • Beta-carotene can be found in a variety of foods including sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mangos, cantaloupes, kale, spinach, turnip greens, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro, fresh thyme, romaine lettuce and broccoli.

  • The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which is very important for immune health and skin repair.

Selenium

A trace mineral that increases the potency of vitamins C and E and prevents damage from free-radicals.

  • Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium, only about 2-3 freshly shelled brazil nuts is probably enough to get your daily RDA for selenium (note: selenium content within batches of brazil nuts can vary). Brazil nuts that come already shelled will likely contain less selenium than those that are shelled - so a small handful is probably sufficient. One should be careful to not consume too many brazil nuts - as toxic levels of selenium could occur.

  • The incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer is found to be significantly higher in areas of the United States with that has low selenium content soil.

  • Selenium was studied in seven dermatology clinics in the U.S. from 1983 through the early 1990s.

  • Taking a daily supplement containing 200 micrograms of selenium was found to significantly reduce the occurrence and death from total cancers. The RDA of selenium is only 55 mcg. a day. Trace minerals are measured in micrograms (not milligrams) as only very small amounts are needed by the body.

Vitamin E

It strengthens the immune system, and protects all the cells in the body from free radical damage.

  • Vitamin E applied topically can also help to heal the damage caused by overexposure to sun.