Today’s Solutions: March 29, 2023

When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, diet plays a bigger role than you might think. Of course, minimizing your exposure to UV rays, a proven carcinogen, is a wise idea, especially considering that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Yet by chomping on plants, you can shore up your body’s internal defenses.

“Eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can boost your skin’s natural sun protection,” says Jessica J. Krant, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City.

When UV radiation, pollution, and other environmental insults damage the skin cells, your body releases reactive oxygen species, molecules to help repair the damage, and free radicals, which trigger inflammation. That can lead to what Krant calls “inflammaging” and a greater risk of skin cancer, which occurs when DNA damage goes too far and can no longer be naturally repaired by the body.

In response, your body launches a defense with antioxidants that fight these triggers and repair the damage. When that happens, the more plants in your diet, the more your body is armed with antioxidants to repair the damage.

So what foods are particularly protective against the sun? Krant breaks it down by nutrients, noting that these foods should be part of your daily diet and not something you eat the day before your beach vacation. You can find these foods below.

Lycopene: Tomatoes, watermelon.

Carotenoids: Red, orange, and yellow foods like carrots, bell peppers, squash, grapefruit, oranges, and apricots.

Polyphenols: Green tea, the darkest chocolate you can tolerate, and dark berries like cherries and blackberries.

Vitamin C: Strawberries, dark leafy greens, broccoli, citrus, and red bell peppers.

Vitamin E: Spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados.

Truth be told, nothing, even the most robust of sunscreens, can prevent sunburn if you bake out there. Yet with a body loaded with what Krant calls “nutritious radiation mitigators,” you can step into the sun with a greater sense of protection.

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