Think of these nine skin-nourishing foods as internal sunscreen!
It can be hard to enjoy those warm rays of the sun when you’re worried about skin damage.
Luckily, by filling your plate with these foods, you may be able to heal the damage from a little too much sunshine.
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Sunshine and Skin Damage
However, sitting in the sun for prolonged periods of time can damage your skin, leading to redness and wrinkles. When you get too much UV radiation, it injures or “breaks” the bonds between the DNA strands in your skin cells. This causes the cells to mutate or die, resulting in signs of aging or even cancer.
Researchers believe that UV exposure accounts for up to 80 percent of the visible signs of aging in the skin. (4)
How Nutrients Can Repair DNA
Before you start to worry about irreversible damage to your skin (and shun the sun forever!) know that there are many foods that can help reverse and prevent this damage.
UV light generates molecules in our bodies called free radicals. These are the molecules that injure and break our DNA, causing skin damage.
The antioxidants in certain fruits and vegetables help scavenge these molecules. When you consume high amounts of these antioxidants, your body can use them to quickly get rid of free radicals before they wreak havoc on your skin. (5)
This isn’t the only way nutrients can help fight skin damage. Vitamin C also helps by synthesizing collagen in the skin, helping to rebuild damaged areas. (6)
Think of your skin as a collection of collagen fibers that form a matrix. This matrix is tight and supple when you’re younger, but as you age or get exposed to UV damage, the matrix loosens or breaks. This is what causes wrinkled, saggy skin, and why adding more collagen to your diet can help fix it.
9 Foods that Repair Skin Damage
The following nine foods are rich in nutrients that help to repair DNA, preventing sun damage. Think of them as an internal sunscreen!
Move aside, apples: an orange a day helps keep wrinkles at bay. Citrus is rich in vitamin C, which is not only a powerful antioxidant that can fight free radical damage but can also stimulate the synthesis of collagen to delay signs of aging. (7)
Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and vegetables. (8) They are particularly rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids, which help to reduce inflammation. This is important because following too much sunlight exposure, your skin experiences low levels of inflammation, which can further increase free radical damage. (9, 10, 11)
Aim to eat blueberries regularly for maximum skin benefits. You can blend them into smoothies, serve them over coconut yogurt, or enjoy them with sliced oranges for maximum skin repair.
Be sure to add a few tomatoes to your salads this summer. Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lutein, which can help stimulate your DNA to repair itself after damage. (12)
These red fruits also contain lycopene, another antioxidant that prevents damage and reduces redness following sun exposure. Animal studies show that it may even reduce the risk of skin cancer. (13)
Make liberal use of organic tomato paste (with no added preservatives or sugar) in your homemade sauces, bake tomatoes in the oven to create tomato chips, or blend them into a chilled soup.
Oysters are rich in zinc, which helps to reduce and repair DNA strand breaks. (14) When you get enough zinc, your body can prevent and repair skin damage.
Crunching on carrots may be a powerful way to gain some sun protection for your skin as well. Carrots are rich in a class of antioxidants called carotenoids, which studies show significantly reduces DNA damage. (15) Other studies show they can also help protect from sunburn. (16)
Add shredded carrots to your salads, or roast a big batch to get plenty of skin-protecting carotenoids.
Salmon’s naturally pink color is indicative of a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin, which studies show is one of the best at scavenging free radicals.
One study found that participants who were exposed to damaging UV radiation for 10 weeks experienced better skin tone when taking astaxanthin, as compared to a placebo group. (17) Researchers believe that astaxanthin helps to prevent and repair UV damage while keeping the skin better hydrated.
As if you needed another reason to eat avocado, their high vitamin E content may offer protective benefits for your skin. Studies show that avocado can significantly protect the outer layers of skin from damage – especially when it’s combined with vitamin C. (18)
In addition, the healthy monounsaturated fats in avocados can help improve your absorption of some antioxidants like lutein, which only adds to your skin protection. (19)
Luckily, it’s easy to add avocados to a variety of meals. If you need some inspiration, try these nine healthy ways to stuff an avocado, or even whip up this creamy chocolate avocado mousse.
8. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are rich in the trace mineral selenium. Like zinc, studies show that selenium stimulates the repair of broken DNA strands, while also reducing the frequency of DNA breaks. It does this by increasing the activity of certain DNA repair enzymes and pathways, helping repair strands that were broken due to sun damage. (20)
Good news, chocolate lovers: Studies show that cacao can significantly protect your skin from UV radiation. Like blueberries, cacao contains flavanols that scavenge free radicals and protect DNA from mutations. (21)
Indulge in a square of dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao solids) every night, or add a dash of raw cacao powder to smoothies or baked treats instead of processed cocoa.
Ready to add these skin-supporting foods to your daily diet? Try out the recipes below:
The Bottom Line
Too much unprotected sun leads to premature aging and wrinkles. Eat more of these foods to help fight sun damage before it starts, and to repair your DNA after a long day outside.
Remember, no food can replace a quality sunscreen – especially a homemade waterproof sunblock! It won’t hurt to give your daily skincare routine a boost, too.