By no means are we saying to slug the sun cream down the sink, but Dr Howard Murad, M.D. Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA and founder of Murad Inc, says that we can improve our own body's protection by eating foods that have natural defences against the sun.
You might scoff, but tomatoes have long been associated with protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. In fact, one BBC study found that after 12 weeks of eating tomato paste, (a fantastic source of lycopene), their volunteers had a 30% increase in skin protection. All that from simply eating more tomatoes.
How does an SPF diet work?
When the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays get through to the skin they can cause an influx in free radicals. That's why it's so important to eat foods that can counteract these harmful effects by promoting our skin's production of collagen and antioxidants while also preventing free radical damage.
As Dr Murad says: “UV exposure from the sun stimulates the production of collagenase in the skin which destroys collagen. Also, exposure to the sun can create an excessive amount of free radicals in the body. Free radicals arise through every day things like eating and the body can handle them, but when too many are created it causes a cascade of free radical damage which can lead to premature ageing."
By simply eating "brightly coloured water-rich fruits and vegetables" that are rich in free radical fighting antioxidants we can help prevent damage to our skin.
As well as this, Dr Murad explains that "some foods contain certain antioxidants which can actually boost your skin’s natural defences against UV damage.”
Dr Murad gave us the low down on the foods that can help protect your skin from the inside out!
Dr Murad explains that anti oxidant rich pomegranates may just be “the world’s most prolific source of polyphenols, which provide anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative protection to fend off free radicals."
While free radicals might not sound that sinister, Dr Murad says they "can accelerate the breakdown of collagen and elastin, resulting in fine lines, age spots, blotchiness and even worse, skin cancer. "
Studies that he has personally directed have seen that taking one pomegranate extract supplement per day "will increase your internal sunscreen protection by over 20% in just 2 months, helping ward off free radical damage and the increase chances of burning.” Impressive huh.
Why eat it? Why WOULDN'T you eat it?
Dr Murad says that "spinach is high in Coenzyme Q10 which acts as a shield from free radical damage, stopping the damage from penetrating to the cells."
But spinach isn't the only source of Coenzyme Q10. This skin protecting enzyme can also be found in peanuts, wheat germ and whole grains. Put them all on your shopping list.
3. Tofu and Soy Milk
Vegetarians shouldn’t be the only ones who incorporate these protein-rich foods into their daily diet.
"Soy products contain genistein which serves as an antioxidant and aides in collagen production. Try tofu in a breakfast scramble or soy milk on your morning cereal,” says Dr Murad.
“Broccoli is a great source of Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) which is a potent fat-and-water-soluble antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Plus, it contains Isothiocyanates which combat carcinogens that can lead to cancer, including skin cancer and breast cancer.”
“Colourful, tasty and protective, berries help fend off free radicals that age the skin while simultaneously boosting collagen production levels," says Dr Murad.
So throw in a handful of raspberries, blueberries and pomegranate seeds into your next smoothie or on top of your morning porridge for added flavour and skin safety - bonus!
6. Goji berries
One particular berry is incredible for skin health, so much so that it deserves its own special mention.
Dr Murad explains, “Goji berries are an extremely dense and nutritious food – a great source of essential fatty acids, free-radical fighting antioxidants, trace minerals, B vitamins, and eighteen amino acids. They're also an excellent source of carotenoids which serve to protect cells from the danger of free radicals that may be produced by UV damage.”
There's not much that cucumbers can't do when it comes to protecting and rejuvenating your skin.
Dr Murad explains that as “cucumbers are 96% water – structured water – which will keep your skin hydrated for longer and when your cells are properly hydrated, they’re more able to fight off free radicals."
They're also full of other nutrients and vitamins that are essential for strengthening your skin. They contain "silica, a trace mineral that contributes to the strength of connective tissue," while cucumber skin contains "Vitamins A, C and folic acid.”
8. Cold water fish and ground flaxseeds
We all know that oily fish are good for you but did you know they are also good for protecting your skin against the damaging effects of the sun?
“Cold water fish and ground flaxseeds are excellent food sources of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA). EFA’s are vital and have amazing hydrating abilities in topical creams and when taken internally, they help to build up cell membranes and attract water to cells. Stronger cells are much more able to fight off free radical damage”, says Dr Murad.
Dr Murad explains that eggs contain Lecithin which can help protect your skin from sun damaged cells that can turn nasty.
“Lecithin is a vital nutritional component that your body needs to repair tissues because it allows the body to build healthy new cells with strong cell membranes.”
10. The orange brigade! Carrots, sweet potatoes and oranges
As a rule of thumb, if it's orange - eat it, it will be good for you.
Dr Murad says: “Carrots, sweet potatoes and oranges are packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C, both of which are fantastic for fighting free radical damage. Feel free to eat carrots with hummus for a nice, healthy snack; sweet potatoes as a side dish at dinner (not fried); and don’t feel guilty about that tall glass of organic orange juice every once in awhile. Your skin will thank you.”
Combine these foods with a daily SPF moisturiser habit and your skin will definitely thank you for it.