6 Foods that Protect Your Skin From the Inside Out

Eat your sunscreenBackyard barbies. Twilight evenings. Long, cool drinks.

Yep, summer’s on the way. And while I’m looking forward to the long days and balmy nights, I can’t say I’m thrilled about the greasy skin and constant sun vigilance part of the deal. Sure, I’m all over the slip-slop-slap basics – and we always head indoors during the 12pm – 2pm swelter – but this summer I’m keen to take the kids’ skin safety to the next level.

So I was pretty interested when I read that eating an antioxidant rich diet can help protect your body from environmental damage – even from the nuclear reactor that is the sun. There’s a caveat of course: researchers reckon it takes at least 10 weeks for photoprotective agents have an impact, so now is a good time to get started for summer. Along with the SPF 30+, I’ll be reaching for the produce below all through the long hot summer. 

1. Tomatoes. “They’re rich in lycopene – an antioxidant with natural sunscreen properties ,” says Dr. Jennifer A. Gardner, a pediatrician and wellness expert, and founder of the Healthy Kids Company. Sun-dried, canned or bottled tomato products — think tomato paste and sauce— are a concentrated source of lycopene. But fresh tomatoes like those found in homemade salsa, gazpacho, or tomato salad still offer a respectable dose of the good stuff.” One study found that five tablespoons of tomato paste a day, served with olive oil, increased protection against sunburn by 33 per cent – the equivalent of an SPF of 1.3. Need another reason to order pizza?

2. Tuna and salmon. Sunburn is inflammation – and omega-3 fatty acids (like those in fatty fish) are nature’s anti-inflammatory superfood. But recent research suggests they have a role to play in preventing sun damage too: according to this report, when people took ten grams of omega-3 fatty acid fish oil over three and six months researchers discovered the fatty acids were being deposited into the skin which meant the amount of UV-B needed to produce sunburn more than doubled. Kid-friendly doses can be found in flavoured supplements too, but you’d want to check with your GP first. 

3. Carrots. Just when you thought carrot cake couldn’t get any better along comes betacarotene: an antioxidant found in carrots with natural sunscreen properties. It may also help reverse sun damage and reduce the intensity of a sunburn, according to one researcher. Others in the betacarotene bunch include sweet potatoes, apricots, pumpkins, papaya and mango.

4. Berry fruits. Berries are synonymous with summer – and if you needed another reason to chow down on blueberries and cherries you’ll be happy to know they boast high levels of vitamin C, which can reduce free radical damage caused by exposure to UV radiation. Vitamin C is also linked to collagen production – aka that sexy stuff that Kardashians kill for. As a bonus, cherries contain melatonin, which protects skin from UV radiation and repairs sunburn damage.

5. Apples. My kids love ‘em – so I’m stoked to discover apples have the highest concentration of polyphenols of any fruit, meaning they can help regulate inflammation, oxidative stress and the immune system ie all the stuff that keeps skin healthy and strong.

6. Dark chocolate. Serious brownie points (no pun intended) for any parent who gets their kids off the sickly sweet stuff and onto the flavanoids in this stuff – which can improve the skin’s ability protect against sunburn and other UV-induced stress. Research found that people who ate a little legit dark chocolate every day for three months could withstand twice the amount of UVB rays before burning compared to those who didn’t.

Are you concerned about sun protection in summer? How do you keep the kids safe? What are you go-to summer snacks? 

More ways to have a sensational summer:

Image: Getty / Peter Muller