Sun-Blockers: 8 Foods to Eat for Sun Protection

Several healthy foods offer increased sun protection. STACK Expert Amy Jamieson-Petonic enumerates 8 of them.

If you're outside training a lot in the summer, or just having fun in the sun, you need to think seriously about sun protection. Sun damage is more of a threat than it was 20 years ago (and it was a threat then), and dermatologists are starting to see people in their late teens with skin cancer melanomas. 

To stay safe, protective eyewear, hydration and sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher should be part of your daily outdoor routine. In addition, did you know that what you eat can help protect you from the sun? It's true. Several healthy foods offer increased sun protection.

Here are eight foods that can help your skin stay healthy during the summer months.

1. Broccoli


A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that broccoli keeps skin smooth by soaking up free radicals created by ultraviolet rays. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C and fiber, making it a great green to have on your plate this summer.

RELATED: 6 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Relieve Muscle Soreness

2. Carrots


Carrots contain carotene and lycopene, a carotenoid that may help keep your skin smooth and shield it from damage. In a 2008 study published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, researchers found that of the 20 individuals who participated, those who had higher skin concentrations of lycopene had smoother skin overall. In another study, consuming carrot juice and/or tomato paste daily for 10-12 weeks resulted 50 percent less skin reddening when exposed to UV light.

RELATED: Fuel Your Performance With Salad: Here's How

3. Coffee


Drinking a single cup of coffee daily may lower your risk of developing skin cancer. In a study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention that included over 93,000 women, those who drank one cup of caffeinated coffee a day reduced their risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent. And the more they drank, the lower their risk. Decaf didn't seem to offer the same protection.

RELATED: 5 Benefits of Coffee for Athletes

4. Edamame


Edamame is rich in isoflavones, compounds that act like antioxidants by picking up the harmful free radicals caused by sun exposure. Isoflavones may also help to preserve skin-firming collagen, which begins to decline in our 20s.

5. Tea


Research suggests the caffeine in tea may protect you against skin cancer. Caffeine kills precancerous and ultraviolet-damaged skin cells by blocking a protein they need to divide. In a study in which mice were exposed to harmful sunburn-causing ultraviolet B rays, caffeine inhibited the formation of skin tumors.

6. Tuna


Tuna and other omega-3-rich fish can prevent skin cancer and keep your skin looking youthful. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), one of the omega-3 fats in fatty fish, has been shown to preserve collagen, a fibrous protein that keeps skin firm. And EPA combined with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the other omega-3 in fish, helps prevent skin cancer by reducing inflammatory compounds that can promote tumor growth. Aim to eat two servings of fatty fish each week. The omega-3s are not only good for your skin, they're good for your heart, too.

7. Spinach


Spinach boasts lutein, a carotenoid that protects the skin from UV damage. When buying spinach, pick the bunch up in the light. New research, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, reveals that spinach stored continuously under the light for as little as three days boasted higher levels of vitamin C and preserved levels of K, E, folate and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

8. Cocoa


Like tea, cocoa contains a type of flavonoid called epicatechin. A study of 24 women published in the Journal of Nutrition found that drinking an epicatechin-rich cocoa beverage daily for 12 weeks improved skin texture. The authors explained that epicatechin increased blood flow to the skin, boosting nutrient and oxygen supply—both essential for keeping skin healthy.

If you're looking for a fabulous recipe to keep your skin healthy this summer, try this Quinoa and Broccoli Slaw with Honey Mustard Dressing. It's from the blog Cookie + Kate, and it makes for a refreshing, delicious summer snack.

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