Want to avoid the potential dangers of sunblock? Increase your skin’s ability to ward off damage by eating your “sunblock.”
Watermelon, tomato, pomegranate, salmon, green tea and dark chocolate all offer UV-protective effects when eaten in the days leading up to sun exposure. No kidding! Scientific tests show that high-antioxidant foods can bolster resistance to damage from the UV light that promotes sunburn, wrinkles and skin cancer. When you eat certain antioxidants, they help stabilize skin cells, preventing and repairing damage.
Best bets from the lab:
1. Chocolate: Women who drank a hot cocoa high in “flavanol” antioxidants daily for three months had 25% less reddening after UV irradiation and more moist, less scaly skin than women drinking low-flavanol cocoa, says new German research. Another source of flavanol is dark chocolate. The downside: It can have a lot of calories.
2. Watermelon and raw tomatoes: German research also finds that lycopene (the antioxidant in watermelon and tomatoes) reduces sensitivity to sunburn. Drinking tomato juice or taking 10 mg of lycopene daily for three months cut signs of sunburn from a UV lamp 25% to 48%.
3. Pomegranate: At the University of Wisconsin, antioxidant-rich pomegranate extract inhibited changes in human cells exposed to UV light.
4. Fatty fish: EPA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid in fish, reduced signs of UV damage in skin cells, says a recent Korean study. In a British test, taking 4,000mg of omega-3 a day (the amount in about 12 ounces of salmon) for three months cut sunburn damage 30%.
5. Green tea: Several studies show drinking green tea helps prevent sunburn and precancerous changes. In a small study, drinking about 2 cups of green tea reduced UV skin damage.
6. Tomato paste: Even better, tomato paste, which is higher in the UV protecting antioxidant, lycopene. Researchers from New Castle University recently examined the skin of women, 20 women, half of whom were given 55g of tomato paste (five tablespoons) with 10g of olive oil every day for 12 weeks and found that the skin of women who consumed the tomato was able to better protect against UV radiation.