Protect Your Skin from the Sun…with Your Fork!

excerpted from The Family Groove

The saying “we are what we eat” could not be more true!

Do we want to look like a dried up old raison or a luscious, juicy peach when we are older?

The control is in your hands. Although applying a good sunscreen daily (and even hourly when we are at the beach or in the sun) is essential, what most people don’t know is that you can protect your skin through what you eat as well! A good sunscreen plus the right foods before sun exposure can mean the difference from a burn to a healthy glow and can determine how you will age.

Ultraviolet radiation, otherwise known as UV rays, is invisible energy emanating from the sun. UV rays can travel through glass (think your car windshield) and clothing and can penetrate deeply within our skin causing wrinkles, discoloration, and even skin cancer!

Because we don’t see UV rays, they can damage our skin when we least expect it- on overcast days! In addition, UV rays react with the cells in our bodies to create unstable molecules called free radicals, which damage proteins in our skin such as elastin and collagen that keep our skin looking healthy and firm. Sounds like a toxic combo? Well, it is!

Aside from wearing a good sunscreen (and actually applying it throughout your day) and wearing protective clothing and a good, wide brimmed hat when you are at the beach or outside for long period of time, begin supplementing your diet with foods that provide extra UV protection and see a difference in how your skin responds in the sun.

How do I supplement my diet to protect my skin from the sun?

The magic word is “antioxidants!” We have all heard of antioxidants and, while many know antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals, most of us don’t know that the free radical protection can be applied to sun exposure and damage as well.

In general, fruits and vegetables are foods high in antioxidants and help us fight free radicals and sun damage while foods such as meat, dairy products, simple carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods cause inflammation and can contribute to making our sun damage worse.

We should all look for foods high in vitamin C (think oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and blueberries, ) lycopene (think cooked tomatoes, red peppers, raspberries, strawberries, apricots, and papaya,) cartenoids (think carrots and sweet potatoes,) flavaonoids (think beans, grapes, apples, red wine, and dark chocolate) and polyphenols (think blueberries, onions and green tea)!

Not only will eating more of these foods enhance your overall health but they also will provide protection from as well as treatment to sun damaged skin.

In addition, studies have shown that combining vitamin C with lycopene, polyphenols, flavenoids and other antioxidants actually helps our bodies assimilate more of the nutrients thus maximizing their benefits.

What are my favorites and how to use them?

blueberries

Blueberries

Blueberries are truly one of my favorite foods in terms of both taste and nutritional content! Not only are blueberries high in vitamins C, B, A, and E and fiber but they actually contain the highest amount of antioxidant than any other food! For this reason the famous dermatologist to the stars, Dr. Perricone, recommends that his patients add blueberries to their diet everyday!

Blueberries are rich in polyphenols, particularly the antioxidant anthocyanin, which give the blueberry the blueish, purple color.  Blueberries help neutralize free radicals and the powerful combination of vitamin C, polyphenols and other nutrients, gives blueberries a powerful anti-aging, sun protecting punch!

Daily use: Start your day off with a heaping bowl of blueberries topped with Silk Milk vanilla soy creamer, top a healthy handful of blueberries on top of your cereal or yogurt or add blueberries to your smoothies when you can. I have blueberries on my cereal every morning! Yum!!!

Tomatoes
Tomatoes are chock-full of the powerful antioxidant, lycopene. Lycopene is important in maintaining healthy skin, preventing cancer, neutralizing free radicals and also protect our skin from the sun. I normally recommend that you eat veggies in their raw form but tomatoes are one exception!

According to the American Cancer Society, studies have also shown that eating cooked tomatoes results in higher blood levels of the antioxidant because our body is better able to assimilate the lycopene.

Daily use: Use marinara sauce on top of pasta, eggplant parmesan and any other fish or meat dishes you are preparing. Purchase a tomato paste and slather on bread or place cooked tomatoes on top of bread for a delicious bruchetta.

carrot
Carrots

Carrots contain the antioxidant beta carotene. Our bodies convert beta carotene into vitamin A, which plays a role in the prevention of skin cancer, helps maintain moisture in the skin, and repairs the skin’s cells from sun damage.

Daily use: Carrot juice!!! You will be amazed at how delicious and refreshing carrot juice can be. I have a large carrot/greens juice almost every day and note that when I do this my skin looks almost immediately more full of color and radiant. Other uses: add chopped carrot to a marinara sauce, place raw carrots out with dip to snack on in the afternoons, add grated carrots to breads and muffins, and grate carrots over your salads.

lemon

Lemons

Lemons are one of my favorite foods that are high in vitamin C because they are so accessible (you can find them anywhere!) and it is very easy to add vitamin C to your diet. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects against free radical damage, is a natural cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and significantly helps the skin repair itself after sun damage!

Daily use: Fill a big water bottle with filtered water and the juice of an entire lemon and drink throughout your day. Dress your salads with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Marinate your fish in a lemon dressing.

chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanoids, which combat against free radical damage, and actually has 9 times the antioxidants than found in strawberries! Much fluff has been made of the benefits of red wine due to its flavanoid content but dark chocolate is a much better choice because you don’t have the dehydrating and toxic side effects as you would with red wine.

Daily uses: I adore having a few pieces of dark chocolate in the afternoons and my new favorites are the chocolate covered bananas and chocolate covered goji berries made by Kopali Organics! Also, start your day or give yourself a boost in the afternoon with a delicious, healthy chocolate smoothie!

green tea

Green Tea
Green tea reportedly contains one of the highest concentrations of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, which neutralize free radicals and can help prevent sun damage as well.

Daily uses: Drink green tea daily instead of coffee in the morning. Green tea comes in a tea bag as well as a powder form commonly called Matcha. Have  a “green tea latte”in the morning or as an afternoon snack by combining matcha powder with your favorite milk.

There is a whole roster of beneficial, antioxidant foods and make sure that you include plenty of greens in your diet but be mindful of what you put into your body prior, during and after sun exposure and you will see a difference with how your skin reacts!

Cooked Tomato Bruschetta

6-8 roma tomatoes (you can also use a can of tomatoes in a pinch)
2-4 cloves of garlic (use more or less depending on your taste buds!)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Basil (fresh preferred but dried if it’s all you have!)
Sliced bread (preferably a whole grain for maximum nutrition)

Chop your garlic and place in a sauce pan with some olive oil and cook until soft. Chop up the tomatoes and add them to the garlic along with some more olive oil and cook until soft. At the very end add the fresh (or dried) basil and a dash of sea salt. When ready set aside to cool. Toast your bread and add the mixture on top. The bruschetta is truly to die for!!!

“Homemade” Marinara Sauce

1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I adore Seed for Change and Paesano’s)
2 large or 3 medium carrots
¼ red pepper
Handful of spinach1 clove of garlic
Few slices of onion
Basil and/or oregano

Place the carrots, red pepper, spinach, garlic and onion in a food processor with a bit of the sauce and run until it is relatively smooth. Place the mixture in a pot with the remaining bit of sauce. Add spices and cook on the stove for approximately 10 minutes and then let simmer. This is an easy way to make a nutritious, antioxidant rich sauce without spending hours on it!!!

Chocolate Blueberry Green Smoothie

2 tablespoons unsweetened chocolate powder
2 cups unsweetened almond milk or soy milk
1 frozen banana
1 handful spinach (also high in antioxidants)
1 cup of blueberries (add to the antioxidant load!)
Optional: Sun Warrior protein powder, hemp seed powder, chia seeds

Blend all of the above in a blender and enjoy!  My kids absolutely adore this smoothie and think they are having a real treat.

Green Tea Matcha Latte

Green tea powder
Unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or soy milk)
Silk Milk Soy Creamer

Place above ingredients in a blender and blend with a few ice cubes. There is no science to how much creamer or almond milk that you add but adding more of the creamer will give it a richer flavor.  Serve in a tall glass on top of ice. Truly this tastes so decadent and is such an afternoon pick me up!

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