How to Optimize Sun Protection Through Seasonal Eating
As summer approaches, I'll be focusing my diet on helping my body cope with this season's biggest environmental challenge: sun exposure. Ultraviolet radiation causes free radical damage, a series of cellular changes associated with premature aging and serious diseases, including cancer. By eating foods that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, we can help prevent these damaging changes from occurring. While this dietary strategy isn't meant to replace external sun protection like hats and a natural mineral sun block, it should be added to your summertime health practices to ensure a complete approach to sun safety. The following list highlights five of the best foods for protecting yourself against the risks of sun exposure this summer.
Tomatoes – A British study suggests that the antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes acts as an internal sunscreen. Study subjects who ate 5 tablespoons of tomato paste a day for 12 weeks were found to have 30% more protection against sunburn than those who did not. A plate of fresh sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and vinegar and sprinkled with fresh basil is a delicious source of this natural sun protection.
Mushrooms – Several species of mushrooms are high in selenium, an antioxidant mineral that counteracts free radical damage. Selenium also works together with vitamin E to help prevent the aging effects of inflammation. Choose crimini, portabella, or white mushrooms to maximize the selenium content of my favorite summer risotto.
Fatty fish – A piece of grilled, steamed, or broiled fatty fish such as salmon or tuna provides a hearty dose of omega-3 fatty acids. According to a recent study at the University of Manchester, these essential fatty acids may help prevent skin cancer by reducing the negative impact of sunlight on the immune system.
Carrots – In addition to neutralizing free radicals, the beta carotene in carrots may also reduce sensitivity to the sun. Raw carrots are the perfect choice when you crave a crunchy summer snack.
Greens – From fresh herbs like parsley and basil to spinach, chard, and other dark green leafy vegetables, this diverse range of foods is another plentiful source of beta carotene. Greens are also packed with polyphenols, which combine antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. To find enticing ideas for adding greens to your summertime meals, stay tuned to our Facebook page.