With the sun shining brightly (for most of us), sunscreen lotion is pulled out of cupboards to do its duty. Preventing sunburns is important for a variety of reasons, the top reason being that sunburns can make us more likely to get skin cancer. I can also attest to the skin damaging effects of sunburns as I had one very terrible sunburn during High School that has left its mark on my body with certain patches of irregular, bumpy skin where the sunburn was worst.
The bottom line: We don’t want to get sunburns.
But do sunscreen lotions really prevent us from getting skin cancer, and are they all that great for us to use on a regular basis? One researcher found that sunscreen does not prevent skin cancer, although it does help prevent sunburn. And if you go to the EWG website, you will find that most sunscreen lotions contain ingredients most of us would rather not layer on our skin on a regular basis. In fact, one ingredient found commonly in sunscreen may help give you cancer!
Getting some sun everyday helps us build up vitamin D levels, which in turn may help prevent all kinds of cancers – including skin cancers, so I don’t worry about short amounts of time in the sun. And while sun exposure has been shown to age us, I also find that if I am never in the sun, my skin doesn’t look very nice (I do live in Oregon, and this has been known to happen for weeks on end).
So, when the sun in shining, how do we protect ourselves? First, as mentioned, I don’t worry about being in the sun for short amounts of time. We enjoy it and soak up vitamin D. For longer periods of time, I cover my youngest up, who has very pale skin, with light clothing and put a hat on her, so that her skin isn’t exposed to the sun’s glare. I do the same with my older daughter if it is especially hot, or we are out especially long. Only if we really need it, will I bring out the sunscreen, and then I try to use a brand that is as natural as possible.
But have you ever thought about protecting your skin by what you eat? The fact is, what you eat may help you prevent sunburn and skin cancer most effectively! And this is true for your children as well. There is some amazing research on this topic! Here are seven foods that will help protect you from the sun’s glare.
Tomatoes and Watermelon
Tomatoes contain high amounts of lycopene (especially when cooked). A study using tomato paste found that those who consumed tomato paste on a day-to-day basis had more protection against acute sunburn and potentially longer-term effects of photodamage. Not everyone does well with the nightshade family (which tomatoes are a part of), however there are other fruits that have high amounts of lycopene in it. One of which is watermelon! While I don’t know of a specific study with watermelon preventing sunburn, it is quite probable that it would have a similar sunburn protection aspect because of its high lycopene content.
What I love about this connection is that watermelon and tomatoes are at their peak during the sunniest periods of time. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
When green tea is drunk daily, it protects you from “ultraviolet injury”. Several studies support this view. This study found that topical applications helped prevent sunburn. Another study supports both topical and internal green tea in preventing skin cancer. For the best of the best, drink matcha tea, which has a host of benefits. Here are some matcha recipes to get you started.
Butter (whipping cream or other sources of saturated fats)
And you thought butter was bad for you? Well according to one study, if you want to get skin cancer, eat plenty of polyunsaturated oils. However, a diet high in saturated fats helps prevent skin cancer. True, the study was only done with mice, but it is certainly promising. Of course, make it at least organic butter to avoid high amounts of pesticides, and if at all possible, butter from grass-fed cows. It will have higher vitamin levels and a host of other benefits.
Salmon and Fermented Cod Liver Oil
I have heard many, many reports of people who say that taking Blue Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil (the cod liver oil I use and recommend) consistently has helped them not sunburn in the summer. If something is working for you, there is no reason to have a study prove to you why. But I did find a study that found that Omega-3 fatty acids helps prevent sunburns and that it might also reduce the risk of skin cancer. Wild Alaskan salmon would also be helpful.
Other reason this brand of cod liver oil could be especially helpful could be because it contains the natural vitamin A and D levels found in cod liver. So many other vitamins, such as C and E have been found to be helpful in preventing sunburn or cancer, so it would make sense that vitamin A and D could be helpful as well.
Dark chocolate not only helped volunteers not sunburn, but it also made their skin smoother, moister and overall nicer than the volunteers who didn’t get chocolate (poor souls). You will need to eat about 3 ounces of dark chocolate to mimic this study’s effect. I haven’t heard any complaints yet.
And the above foods are just a small portion of foods that help you fight against getting sunburned or skin cancer! You will notice a theme of healthy, real foods, with a special emphasis on antioxidant-rich foods being helpful. It is just one more reason for eating a healthy diet. I can imagine many delicious meals being made with these ingredients. Enjoy the sun with real food, and you may find that sunburns and other health issues are a thing of the past.
Photo Credit: Top Photo-davedehetre/flickr. All other photos by Kimi Harris. All rights reserved.