8 foods and drinks that help protect skin from sunburn

They won’t replace good sunscreen, but these nutrient-dense foods can give your skin extra sun protection if you eat them regularly.
It’s hard not to love a sunny day, but we all know the risks associated with prolonged exposure to UV rays. Broad-spectrum sunscreen is the first and most important line of defense against sun damage, but certain foods can help boost your body’s natural protection. Eating a combination of these 8 nutrient-dense foods on a regular basis can give you an extra layer of security.

1. Tomatoes and tomato paste

Science has shown the benefits of tomatoes for sun protection dating back to 2012. A study published in October 2012 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that foods rich in lycopene, a plant pigment with antioxidant properties, can reduce sunburn severity and increase skin moisture and elasticity.

Although the study subjects consumed about 2.5 tablespoons of tomato paste every day for 10 weeks, which is not something most people normally do, experts believe that similar effects can be obtained by adding plenty of lycopene-rich foods to your daily diet. Instead of thinking about eating tomato paste every day, think about how you can add antioxidant-rich foods to every meal and every snack.
Consuming a variety of lycopene-rich foods, including whole tomatoes, juices, and sauces, is one way to maximize your sun protection with this food. Previous research has also indicated that enjoying tomatoes cooked in olive oil may increase the absorption of lycopene.

2. Watermelon

Watermelon, a summer staple, is another source of lycopene. According to a study published in Experimental and Clinical Sciences Journal, watermelon contains about 40% more lycopene than an equal amount of tomatoes. Plus, watermelon has the added benefit of being more hydrating than most fruits, making it a perfect combination for healthy skin. Be aware, however, that the deep red parts of watermelon contain much more lycopene than the yellow or greenish parts.

3. Grapes

Preliminary evidence suggests that grapes may have photoprotective effects. Researchers from the Department of Dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham had 19 healthy adults consume a powder made from freeze-dried grapes for 14 days. They measured the subjects’ sensitivity to UV light before and after those 14 days, and found that the amount of light needed to cause visible reddening of the skin was almost 75% higher after two weeks of consuming the powder. . In other words, grape powder seems to make the skin more resistant to the harmful effects of UV rays. Skin biopsies also revealed a decrease in DNA damage and dead cells.

Although the study, published in January 2021 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, is small and more research is needed, grapes have many other benefits, and eating more of them won’t hurt. The powder used in the study was equivalent to about 2 cups of grapes per day.

Previous research on mice, which was published in August 2017 in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, found that natural compounds in grapes known as polyphenols appeared to reduce the effects of UV rays. When the researchers tried it with humans, the results were similar.

4. Medicinal herbs

It’s really important to incorporate small, regular doses of antioxidants into your diet to help replenish the levels in your epidermis. This outer layer of skin is the impermeable barrier that protects hair follicles, sweat glands and connective tissue, and is the one most affected by UV and free radical damage.

Herbs like oregano are concentrated sources of antioxidants, and may protect against free radicals, according to research published in March 2016 in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Both fresh and dried herbs had higher levels of antioxidants than prepared herb pastes, so sticking with whole herbs rather than processed herbs is your best bet. Double the dose of antioxidants and make pizza sauce with oregano, or shake your own salad dressing to get your daily dose.

5. Green tea

Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is a specific type of nutrient found in green tea that may have photoprotective effects. In a study published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, when researchers gave mice green tea for 31 weeks while exposing them to UV light, the mice who drank the tea had significantly fewer skin cancers. than a group of mice that had undergone the same UV exposure but had not drank tea. To get the same results as mice, the study authors said humans would need to drink between five and six cups of green tea a day.

A study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that men and women who drank about five cups of green tea a day had later onset of skin problems than those who drank less or no tea. Plant compounds found in green tea may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The polyphenols found in green tea provide protection through their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to enhance DNA repair.

6. Coffee

Add this to the long list of coffee health benefits: A study published in January 2015 in the Journal of the National Institute found an association between high coffee consumption and lower rates of malignant melanoma. Researchers studied volunteers’ coffee consumption for 10 years and controlled for other factors, including UV exposure, body mass index, age, sex, physical activity, coffee consumption. alcohol and smoking history. They found that people who drank at least four cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 20% lower risk of developing skin cancer.

7. Cocoa

A reason to eat more chocolate? We agree ! According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers gave 24 women a highly concentrated cocoa drink for 12 weeks and found that they suffered significantly less UV skin damage than the others. The study found that the sun protection offered by cocoa flavanols (more plant-based compounds with health benefits) was comparable to taking beta-carotene supplements or consuming lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes. In contrast, test subjects who drank an identical amount of a low-flavanol cocoa drink did not obtain a photoprotective effect. The high cocoa content drink increased blood flow and water retention in the skin of those who drank it, while the low cocoa content drink did not have this effect. It’s not unlikely that other forms of cocoa, such as chocolate, will have similar effects, but stick to bars that have a cocoa percentage of 70% or higher, as they have a greater concentration of flavanols and less added sugar.

8. Berries

In 2009, researchers at Hallym University in Korea found that topical application of an antioxidant called ellagic acid led to a reduction in the inflammatory response to UV rays, according to an article in Science Daily. Ellagic acid is commonly found in raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries. This acid slowed the release of collagen-degrading enzymes in mouse and human skin cells for eight weeks. It is uncertain whether the effects are the same when eating the berries, so more research is needed.

Foods That May Increase Sun Sensitivity

As you add foods to your diet to help block UV rays, you might want to use extra sunscreen if you’re a fan of the following foods, which can have the opposite effect:

citrus juice

While citrus fruits and citrus juices are fantastic sources of vitamin C, an essential antioxidant, a 2015 study from Brown University’s Department of Dermatology found that white people who consumed high amounts of citrus fruits were more likely to develop melanoma. Citrus fruits, including lemons, oranges and grapefruit, are rich in natural chemicals called psoralens and furocoumarins, which have been linked to skin cancers. The researchers surveyed subjects over a 25-year period and found that white people who ate grapefruit three or more times a week had an increased risk. Regular consumption of orange juice presented a lower risk, but not negligible.

Celery juice

This product may be less common in the average diet, but multiple studies over the past two decades show a link between high intake of psoralen, a compound found in some fruits and vegetables, and skin cancer. . A study published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that “substantial exposure to psoralen and ultraviolet A significantly increases the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.” Celery is particularly high in psoralen, although eating the vegetable itself does not have enough of it to be a problem.


β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight

Watermelon lycopene and allied health claims

Dietary table grape protects against ultraviolet photodamage in humans: 1. clinical evaluation

Antioxidant, Antibacterial, and Cytotoxic Activities of the Ethanolic Origanum vulgare Extract and Its Major Constituents

Protective Mechanisms of Green Tea Polyphenols in Skiing

Long-Term Ingestion of High Flavanol Cocoa Provides Photoprotection against UV-Induced Erythema and Improves Skin Condition in Women

The increased risk of skin cancer is persistent after discontinuation of psoralen+ultraviolet A: a cohort study

Eat a lot of citrus? careful in the sun

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