7 Sun-Protective Foods That Should Be In Your Summer Diet
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In the killing heat of summer, many try to seek refuge in sunscreens, protective masks and scarves to protect the skin from the sun. While these solutions can help to some extent, diet also plays a huge role in keeping skin protected. Sure, you cannot eat sunscreen, but you can include some foods in your diet that are known to protect the body from UV damage.

To break down how foods help from sun damage, here's a short explanation. Sun produces three types of UV rays, namely UVA, UVB and UVC. Of the three, UVA penetrates the skin the most and is responsible for tan. UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburns and can cause skin cancer, so it is more dangerous than UVA. UVC is the most dangerous among the three, and it is thankfully blocked by Earth’s ozone layer, but it can be produced from mercury lamps and laser lights. UVC is responsible for causing severe burns on skin and eye injuries like photokeratitis.

While you may protect your skin from UV rays with sunscreen and covers, it doesn't offer complete protection therefore, protecting yourself from inside out is necessary. One way to achieve this is by including foods with antioxidants,  carotenoids, vitamins C and E, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids in diet. These compounds have shown notable protection from UV damage and some potential benefits, including preventing or delaying sunburns, redness on skin and eyes and reducing the signs of ageing caused by sun exposure. Know what foods contain these excellent nutrients to ward off the harmful effects of UV rays and keep your skin protected from damage this Summer.

7 Foods That Provide Protection Against Sun Damage

1) Tomato

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Tomato contains carotenoid and an antioxidant named lycopene, which is known to protect skin from sun damage. When consumed regularly, it enhances the body's ability to protect the skin from UV damage. A study aimed to explore if consuming lycopene-rich tomato paste could protect against UV-induced skin redness (erythema) published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2001 conducted on nine participants confirms that tomato paste can indeed offer protection against UV-induced skin redness.

2) Carrots

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Carrots are a source of lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamin E. It has been known to counteract free radicals and oxidative stress caused by UV radiation. An experimental study published in Bali Medical Journal in 2022 tested the effects of carrot extract as a sunscreen to prevent apoptosis (cell death) in mouse fibroblast cell cultures exposed to UVB light. The results showed a significant difference between the control and carrot extract treatment groups, indicating that carrot extract can provide a protective effect on the skin by preventing apoptosis. Eating carrots and using their extracts in skin products can help you enjoy the benefits.

3)  Blueberries

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Blueberries are a source of powerful antioxidants like flavonoids and anthocyanin can help in fighting free radical damage caused by UV rays of the Sun. A study published in the Food Science and Nutrition Journal by Helion in 2021 has shown that irradiated blueberries, subjected to UV-C treatments, exhibited a delay in the onset of fungal infection compared to untreated samples during storage. Also, a 4 to 6-day delay in the onset of infection was observed in irradiated blueberries, and the percentage of infected fruit was significantly lower after 20 days of storage compared to untreated samples. Consuming blueberries regularly can help ward off the skin damage caused by the Sun.

4)  Watermelon

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Watermelon contains  Lycopene, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These compounds help in absorbing UVA and UVB radiation and prevent skin damage. In a conference paper (Davis and Perkins #), Watermelon, particularly its pigment lycopene, has shown promise in preventing DNA damage in skin cells.  In the experiment, watermelon lycopene extracted from high-pressure pasteurised juice was mixed with a cream base and tested alongside commercial sunscreens for its ability to block UVA and UVB light. The results revealed that the watermelon sunscreen exhibited an SPF rating of 32 for both UVA and UVB, indicating its effectiveness in protecting against sun damage.

5) Sweet Potatoes

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Sweet Potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene which is a precursor to vitamin A and prevents UV damage. A 2021 review on sweet potatoes to measure its associated health benefits published in the Journal of Trends in Food Science & Technology, suggests that a daily intake of sweet potatoes can impart protection from SUn and fill the body with nutrients.

6) Red, Orange And Yellow Bell Peppers

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The red, yellow and orange colours in bell peppers come from carotene substances. These substances provide excellent antioxidant properties. These bell peppers also contain Vitamins C and E along with Lycopene which offers effective protection from sun damage.

7)  Cruciferous Veggies

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Cruciferous Vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli are known to contain powerful antioxidants that help in reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals. A study published by the National Cancer Institute backs the potent damage protection effects of Cruciferous Veggies. The study says that Cruciferous Vegetables help protect cells from DNA damage, inactivate carcinogens, contain antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and also induce cell death and prevent tumour formation.

Protect yourself from Sun and UV damage by including these foods in your diet. Include these foods in healthy smoothies and breakfast recipes, and consider consuming them during the day rather than at night.