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Top 5 Foods to Protect your Skin from Sun Damage

By Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN on August 7, 2014

Top 5 Foods to Protect your Skin from Sun Damage

If you’re like most people, you love the sun! Sunshine helps to boost mood and is a natural way to get some vital, bone-health and immune-supporting vitamin D. However, too much UV exposure from the sun has well-known risks, causing free radical damage that can lead to aging wrinkles — or worse, cancer. But these risks don’t mean you have go to vampire-worthy extremes to avoid the sun—and its positive sides—completely.Instead, strike a balance by moderating UV exposure in the usual hat-and-sunscreen ways—and by eating foods with UV protective powers. Here are my top 5 foods to help protect your skin from the sun’s ill effects, so you can still enjoy getting (a little) glow on.

1. Tomatoes

This juicy, savory fruit gets its color from the bright red carotenoid, lycopene. Lycopene acts as a natural sunscreen, protecting the skin from UV exposure,1 which causes free radical damage that result in wrinkles, dry skin and sun spots. For best absorption, combine lycopene-rich foods — such as tomatoes and watermelon—with healthy fats from foods like avocados and SaviSeeds.

2. Kale

Move over carrots, kale is one of the most abundant sources of beta-carotene — one of the most popular antioxidant carotenoids.1 Beta-carotene converts in the body to retinol, an active form of vitamin A, which protects against oxidative stress and UV damage. And since kale is a dark leafy green, it’s alkaline-forming and contains a plethora of other antioxidants and phytosterols shown to help protect the skin from sun damage.

3. Olives

The high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of these little morsels pack a powerful punch in protecting against sun damage. Olives are rich in antioxidant vitamins A and E which help protect the surface of the skin from free radical damage2 caused by UV radiation. Plus, the anti-inflammatory and moisturizing benefits of olive oil help to soothe chapped or sun-burned skin—apply a teaspoon topically to calm your skin.

4. Brazil Nuts

Just 1 or 2 Brazil nuts per day provide the recommended daily intake of antioxidant mineral selenium. Selenium’s antioxidant powers help to slow down the aging process caused by sun damage.3

5. Green Tea

Green tea is a rich source of antioxidant polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to help reduce skin inflammation and irritation caused by sun exposure. Plus these antioxidant properties combat the free radical damage caused by sun exposure. Studies suggest that green tea may have a role in long-term health.4

How do you keep your skin glowing all summer long?


  1. Stahl W, Sies H. (2012).  β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 96(5):1179S-84S. Accessed on 7/24/14 from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/5/1179S.long
  2. Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Review. 4(8): 118–126. Accessed on 7/24/14 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/
  3. National Institute of Health. (2013). Selenium. Accessed on 7/24/14 from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/
  4. Oyetakin White P, Tribout H, Baron E. (2012).  Protective mechanisms of green tea polyphenols in skin. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Accessed on 7/24/14 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3390139/pdf/OXIMED2012-560682.pdf