Eat Your Sunscreen

May gray moved aside in Southern California this weekend and I took advantage of it! I LOVE the sun and hot weather. But what about all that exposure to the sun we are supposed to avoid by slathering on the toxic, cancer causing sun screen, or keeping ourselves completely covered up? There’s a better way! Eat your sun screen!

Say what? Whole plant based foods have been shown to increase the skin’s ability to protect against sun damage. A raw food diet delivers optimal nutrition so that our bodies can do all the work they were meant to do, including helping our bodies utilize the health promoting factors of the sun. What’s the secret? Antioxidants, phytonutrients, and probably a ton of other good for us stuff in whole, raw, plant foods that we don’t even understand yet.

So first, let’s look the health benefits of the sun. The sun promotes vitamin D production in the body which is necessary for strong teeth and bones, has a beneficial effect on skin disorders, protects against and helps heal certain kinds of cancer, supports a healthy immune system, protects against dementia, helps the body release excess fat, helps children grow, cures depression, promotes good sleep, protects against heart disease, lowers blood pressure, it’s a natural pain killer, is good for your eyes, and the list goes on! So, the sun isn’t the problem.

Just as a poor diet has a negative effect on skin and overall health, a diet of whole raw foods may offer protection from various health problems, including sun-related ones! Food is our first line of defense. What we eat can have a big impact on how our skin manages the sun. Eating plant foods give us the raw materials to build our own sun protection, from the inside out. While I believe that all foods in their whole raw form create a healthy body that can manage sun exposure, here are some foods that stand out for skin protection:

Red and orange fruits and veggies rock your world! Lycopene, found in tomatoes and other red and pink produce, has been shown to aid in protection against some UV-induced skin irritations and minimizes any inflammatory response to UV damage by your body. Watermelon, the perfect summer food, explodes with lycopene, containing 40% more than tomatoes. Components found in red grapes have been shown to protect against sun damage, skin cancer, and skin cell death.

Beta-carotene, found in carrots and other orange produce, reduces reactions to sunburns, and the flavanoids found in orange and pink citrus fruits have also been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect against UV rays

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower, are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that help fight sun damage and skin cancer and help protect the body’s cells against UV radiation. Cauliflower is a great source of histidine, which stimulates healthy production of urocanic acid, a natural photoprotective. There’s never been a better time to load up on those sprouts!

If it’s green and leaf-like, it’s likely good for sun protection. Fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, sage, and rosemary, are loaded with antioxidants. Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, lettuce, and swiss chard are also chock full antioxidants. These greens may naturally protect the skin from sun damage and may halt cell growth prompted by UV light.

Turmeric has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help protect the epidermal skin cells from the damage caused by ultraviolet B radiation.

The Omega 3 fatty acids in flax seeds can protect your skin from sunburn, reduce inflammation if sunburn occurs, and fight against skin cancer. It also helps keep your skin moisturized so it won’t dry out. Why not add 2 tablespoons to your next smoothie.

Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, which protects and repairs the skin from sunlight, and quercetin, which has been shown to protect against UV damage and the wrinkle-causing breakdown of collagen.

And don’t forget the green tea, after all, it started as green leafies. When you sip a cup of green tea, it contains properties that protect against sunburn inflammation and long-term UV radiation damage. The tannic acid helps calm sunburn pain.

Even after loading up on all this raw goodness, please use common sense when out in the sun. Don’t get sun burned. When you haven’t been in the sun for a while, acclimate to sun exposure slowly. If you are going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, wear a light long sleeved shirt, pants, and a hat. If you need to wear a sunscreen, look for non-toxic options. Check out EWG’s guide to sunscreens. The sun gets negative press, but the real negative press should be on the harmful effects of the chemically laden sunscreens we are exposed to. And, skin cancer rates are on the rise, despite the use of sunscreen and reduced exposure! So, don’t be afraid of the sun; be afraid of the chemicals in your sunscreen…

Eat up and enjoy the summer!

In love and good health.

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