We are told that we must wear sunscreen as our primary protection against skin damage, but many sunscreens contain chemicals that are harmful to our health. There are many ways we can responsibly enjoy the sun, and that includes what we eat and how we use the sun. There is a wide variety of foods that offer sun protection, and most of these are readily available in the summer. Nature is so clever – in fact, there are many surprising health benefits of sunshine too!
Health benefits of the sun
Table of contents
- 1 The 9 best foods for sun protection
We’ve demonized the sunshine, though it really isn’t the enemy. In truth, the earth and the people, plants, and animals that live on it need sunshine to survive. The sun is our main source of vitamin D, which is formed in our skin after sun exposure. Vitamin D is crucial for the immune system, mental health, hormone production, bone health and sleep. While we can also get vitamin D from food, the sun is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get it.
Sunlight also helps regulate our circadian rhythm, improve our mood and cognition, and even reduce our risk of certain cancers.
Tips for safe sun exposure
If we are to reap the benefits of sunshine, it is important to use it responsibly. The right amount is good for our health – but too much of it can be harmful, especially without safe sun exposure. Some of the things you can do to enjoy the sun safely are:
- Enjoy the sun outside of peak times, e.g. B. early morning or late afternoon/early evening. Remember that vitamin D is best absorbed between 12pm and 2pm, so if you want to get your optimal dose of vitamin D, a quick 5-10 minutes in the sun during this time can help.
- Cover yourself with appropriate clothing (hats, long sleeves and trousers, sunglasses, etc.).
- If you use sunscreen, buy a safe sunscreen and apply it regularly.
- Our skin produces vitamin D and if you shower right after sunbathing, you may wash it off. When showering, use soap on your armpits and genitals and water on just everything else to get vitamin D.
- Darker skin types require more time in the sun to absorb vitamin D than lighter ones – make sure you plan sun time according to your skin tone.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day with hydrating foods and beverages.
The 9 best foods for sun protection
Diet plays an important role in sun protection by providing us with nutrients that ward off damage and help our skin become more resilient. Include these top sun protection foods in your diet for a healthy dose of nutrients that can help protect your skin against the sun.
Blueberries, and virtually all berries, are a rich source of antioxidants. Sunlight exposes us to UV radiation, but the antioxidant foods fight free radicals and protect us from this sun damage. Blueberries are also a wonderful source of vitamin C, which helps strengthen and boost collagen production.
Find inspiration for blueberry recipes here!
Hemp seeds, along with chia seeds and flaxseeds, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that help our skin maintain its integrity and keep it smooth, strong and supple. Omega-3 fatty acids are also powerful anti-inflammatory, so these foods can help heal when sunburn occurs.
Add hemp seeds to smoothies or use as a topper for soups, stews, cereal, non-dairy yogurt, granola, or nut butters on toast. One of our favorites is this Hemp Chocolate Spread.
carrots and red peppers
Carrots and red peppers are both high in beta-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A, a nutrient that aids in vision, skin and mucous membrane healing. Research shows that beta-carotene protects us from sunburn; However, this sun protection effect kicks in after at least 10 weeks of consuming beta-carotene, so start feasting on these veggie values!
Try these Carrot Cake Energy Bites for carrot-y goodness.
Gorgeous tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colors are plentiful in summer and for good reason – their concentration of the pigment lycopene helps protect us from sunburn. Studies have found that research participants who ate tomato paste daily for 10 weeks were much less prone to sunburn than groups who did not consume tomato paste. We especially like eating tomatoes in salsa and tomato sauce.
Now you have one more reason to enjoy the abundance of tomatoes this summer, don’t you think?
Dark leaf green
Dark green leafy vegetables are an incredible source of antioxidants, which can help offset the damage caused by UV rays. Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin — specific antioxidants found in vegetables — help prevent skin wrinkles and protect us from the sun. Research also shows that eating dark leafy greens can reduce our risk of skin cancer.
You can add vegetables to virtually any meal. We also love to make kale chips!
If you’re looking for another reason to eat more chocolate, here it is: the antioxidants found in cocoa powder help prevent sun damage. In one study, women who were given a chocolate drink high in flavanol for 12 weeks were less sensitive to UV radiation than women who consumed a drink low in flavanol. The same study showed that eating chocolate improved blood flow to the skin, as well as skin texture and structure. Score!
You can start with these incredible dairy free chocolate recipes.
Green tea is rich in polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which provides natural sun protection, helps scavenge free radicals, and may inhibit skin tumors. When applied topically, EGCG supplements can reduce skin redness. When it’s hot outside, simply chill your green tea to make iced tea or use in smoothies.
Find more ways to use green tea—and all other teas—in cooking and baking.
These small but mighty fish are packed with selenium, an antioxidant that may help prevent damage from UVB rays. They’re also rich in amino acids (protein), which help with healing and repair, and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. There is evidence that a Mediterranean-style diet high in fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil and vegetables helps protect against melanoma.
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties that help protect skin from damage. Eat as a snack, fold into trail mix or make sunflower seed butter out of it.
A nutritious diet plays a key role in our overall health and building resilience, and supports us when we are out in nature. These best foods for sun protection are packed with nutrients, delicious and easy to incorporate into our daily lives.
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