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Preventing Sun Damage Through Food

It's that time of year for barbeques, beach days, hikes, sporting events, and pool lounging! Time to create summer memories that will last, while the sun tan, as we all know, is temporary.

It's important to protect our skin from the harsh effects of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation while we enjoy the sun. A painful burn and blistering skin are not something anyone wants to remember! To fully enjoy the warm summer days, there are some basic steps such as drinking enough water, avoiding direct sun exposure during the hottest hours, choosing shade for outdoor activities, wearing wide-brimmed hats and protective clothing, putting babies under umbrellas or canopies, and consistently applying a reliable sunscreen.

But for more specific skin protection, keep reading!

Nutritional Protection

Have you heard of photoaging? It's one of the harmful effects that UV rays on our skin cells. Lucky for us, there are many foods contain compounds that can reduce photoaging.

These compounds are helpful in preventing damage to our skin. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps to supply our bodies with antioxidants that work together to lower inflammation and prevent the growth of tumors. (1) Fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids that not only provide their vibrant color but also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties that protect our bodies from the sun's harmful effects.

Incorporating a diverse range of fruits and vegetables, spanning from berries and citrus fruits to various colorful veggies, is a helpful approach to crafting delightful summer salads and fruit combinations. Consider mixing your favorites together for a yummy treat!


Exposure to UV radiation results in higher levels of oxidative stress, which in turn causes photoaging of skin cells. Photoaging is essentially early skin aging of the skin caused by substantial exposure to the sun without protection. It can cause changes in appearance and increase the chances of developing skin cancer.

Photoaging can cause spider veins to appear on your nose, cheeks, and neck; uneven skin tone; loss of skin tone in areas that are exposed to the sun; deep wrinkles; and rough scaly spots that could be precancerous and need to be removed. (2)

Plants contain several beneficial compounds that can help protect our skin by blocking UV rays, reducing inflammation, and affecting pathways that promote survival. (3) One more plug for lots of vegetables and fruits to help maintain youthful and healthy skin!


Proper functioning of the immune system, protein synthesis, and wound healing require sufficient levels of zinc. Consuming foods with a high content of zinc can help promote the growth of cells after skin damage, including sunburns.

Foods such as shellfish, beef, poultry, pork, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are rich sources of zinc. If needed, you can also take zinc in the form of a supplement. To avoid copper deficiency while taking zinc supplements for extended periods, make sure to also consume a small amount of copper, usually a 1:20 ratio (1 part Copper to 20 parts Zinc), (5)


Lycopene is an antioxidant that belongs to the carotene family and can be found in any red/orange plant. Think tomatoes, carrots, pink grapefruit, red cabbage, berries, apricots, papaya, plums, melons, papayas, grapes, peaches, and watermelons. In human skin, lycopene is the antioxidant that gets depleted the fastest when exposed to UV radiation. (6)

Eating foods that are rich in lycopene (& carotenes) may provide some protection against conditions caused by oxidative damage to proteins, lipids, and DNA, like skin cancer. A study conducted in 2015 showed that lycopene could help improve damaged cells caused by radiation, depending on the extent of the damage. (7)

Since our bodies cannot make lycopene, it is essential to include it in our daily diet. Fun fact: Tomato pastes and sauces are excellent sources of lycopene, containing more of it per 100g than raw or cooked tomatoes. (8)

Green Tea

Lastly, Green tea with its plethora of flavonoids, specifically catechins like EGCG. These act as antioxidants and protect the skin from UV radiation. (9)

EGCG is believed to minimize cell damage caused by UV exposure and enhance skin's ability to retain moisture, which can help reduce the visibility of wrinkles caused by sun exposure. (10)

Green tea is versatile and can be enjoyed hot or iced. It can also be turned into delicious popsicles in the summer by mixing it with fruit puree. Or iced green tea mixed with frozen berries in a big pitcher? Yes please! Beat the heat and benefit your skin.

Alternatively, you can use iced green tea as a base for your smoothies to get your green tea fix. EGCG is great for achieving radiant and healthy skin!

This blog is inspired from an article in Eco Parent magazine written by Beth Yaworsky, ND. I highly recommend checking out this magazine if you love all things health!


  1. Alschuler, L.N. and Gazella, K.A. (2010) The Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing. Celestial Arts.

  2. The Canadian Dermatologist Society (2023). Photoaging

  3. Petruk, G., Del Giudice, R., Rigano, M. M., & Monti, D. M. (2018). Antioxidants from Plants Protect against Skin Photoaging. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2018, 1454936.

  4. Murray, M., Pizzorno, J. and Pizzorno, L. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Whole Foods. Atria Books.

  5. Duncan A, Yacoubian C, Watson N, et al. 2015. The risk of copper deficiency in patients prescribed zinc supplements. Journal of Clinical Pathology 68(9): 723–5. DOI: 10.1136/jclinpath-2014-202837

  6. J. R. Mein, F. Lian, and X.-D. Wang, “Biological activity of lycopene metabolites: implications for cancer prevention,” Nutrition Reviews, vol. 66, no. 12, pp. 667–683, 2008.

  7. Ascenso, A., Pedrosa, T., Pinho, S., Pinho, F., de Oliveira, J. M., Cabral Marques, H., Oliveira, H., Simões, S., & Santos, C. (2016). The Effect of Lycopene Preexposure on UV-B-Irradiated Human Keratinocytes. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2016, 8214631.

  8. Imran, M., Ghorat, F., Ul-Haq, I., Ur-Rehman, H., Aslam, F., Heydari, M., Shariati, M. A., Okuskhanova, E., Yessimbekov, Z., Thiruvengadam, M., Hashempur, M. H., & Rebezov, M. (2020). Lycopene as a Natural Antioxidant Used to Prevent Human Health Disorders. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(8), 706.

  9. Saric, S., & Sivamani, R. K. (2016). Polyphenols and Sunburn. International journal of molecular sciences, 17(9), 1521.

  10. Kim, E., Hwang, K., Lee, J., Han, S. Y., Kim, E. M., Park, J., & Cho, J. Y. (2018). Skin Protective Effect of Epigallocatechin Gallate. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(1), 173.


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