The sun is vital for life because without it, earth’s trillions of living things—including you—would not be here. The problem is that too much exposure can cause problems, and too little of it is problematic as well.
If sunshine is crucial to our existence, then why have we been told to avoid it at all cost? And is it advisable to slather on copious amounts of sunscreen before sunbathing?
There is no denying the fact that there are many sunscreens on the market that are harmful to your health, and choosing the best sunscreen for your family is an increasingly challenging task. Lots of them contain cancer-causing chemicals which enter the bloodstream through your skin. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on a tube of sunscreen? As you might have guessed, many of these ingredients are difficult to spell and even more difficult to pronounce. I’ve listed a few of them below:
Harmful Chemicals Found in Many Sunscreens
Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC)
These chemicals not only cause harm to our bodies, but they also disrupt the delicate balance of the planet’s marine ecosystems. In fact, the state of Hawaii is set to ban the sale of all sunscreens containing chemicals that are known to be toxic to coral reefs and marine life.
So, it’s no wonder that many people have decided to buy sunscreen with a “safe” ingredients list or they make their own. Some even forego sunscreen altogether and only spend just enough time in the sun to keep their vitamin D level in good shape.
But what has been the result of following the advice to stay out of the sun at all cost? There are now more cases of vitamin D deficiencies than ever before. And a lack of vitamin D has contributed to a host many problems such as diabetes, fatigue, cancer, and bone pain. So avoidance is not the answer either (unless you have underlying conditions that warrant it).
Given these facts, wouldn’t you agree that there needs to be a balance between getting enough sunlight to help you produce adequate amounts of vitamin D and protecting yourself from damage due to overexposure?
So, the question is – What is the best way to use the healing power of the sun without causing harm to ourselves? How can you protect your skin from the sun naturally?
Nature gives us clues, my friend.
How Do Plants Protect Themselves From the Sun?
Let’s take a look at plants and trees, for example. They are outside in the sunlight all summer long and rely on the sun’s precious rays to make their food. But as long as they have adequate water and are kept in their best environment, they remain lush with no signs of sun damage. How do plants protect themselves from sun damage, and how can we imitate them?
Would you be surprised to learn that plants make their own sunscreen? I was surprised to learn this too.
In a nutshell, scientists have found that plants produce molecules called “sinapate esters.” They transport these special molecules to the surface of their leaves. Once there, the “natural sunscreen” blocks harmful UV rays from penetrating their foliage and damaging their DNA.
Even with this natural self-made sunscreen, plants still suffer some damage from ultraviolet radiation. But nature steps in again and plants produce enzymes that detoxify the dangerous molecules that are formed when exposed to too much sunlight, and this heals them. Sort of like a sunblock. Isn’t that incredible?
So how can we put this knowledge to good use in our quest to take advantage of the sunshine in a responsible way?
While we may not be able to produce our own sunscreen in the way plants do, there is no denying that our bodies are marvelously made. If we give it the proper nourishment, we can help it to reduce or minimize the damage from sun exposure.
So, I’ve researched the top eight foods that boost natural sun protection. Most of these foods are more plentiful in the summer when the weather is warmer and the sun’s rays are stronger, and these delicious antioxidant-rich foods will help with inflammation. So, if we eat in season, we are taking an excellent step in the right direction. We can help our bodies to protect itself just like the plants and trees.
Antioxidant-Rich Sun Protection Foods
1. Beta-carotene-rich foods help to reduce sensitivity to the sun and are natural skin protectors. They absorb both artificial and natural UV rays, same as the melanin in your skin. So include nutrient-dense sweet potatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, cantaloupe, and apricots for protection from the sun.
2. Sip on green tea because it contains powerful polyphenol antioxidant that protects against UV rays, even at low doses. It does wonders for the skin as it fights inflammation and can even prevent skin cancer.
3. Yes, it’s true. You don’t need to give up your delicious raw cacao or dark chocolate, but on the contrary, include them in your diet to reap the benefits of sun protection. The antioxidants contained in cocoa provide strong protection against sunburn and skin cancer. Be sure to eat chocolate with at least 70% cacao for the best protection.
4. Mother was right – eat your leafy greens such as broccoli, kale, romaine, spinach, and cilantro to help repair and prevent sun damage.
5. Omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation; thereby, protecting your skin from sunburn and skin cancer. Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, seaweed, flax, hemp and chia seeds are rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.
6. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats (butter from grass-fed cows, organic milk, coconut oil, nuts, olive oil, and avocados) because they protect the skin after too much sun exposure and can actually increase the time it takes to become sunburned, just like sunscreen.
7. Totally amazing turmeric – Traditional Chinese medicine has used turmeric for centuries because of its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Laboratory studies suggest that turmeric can help protect the epidermal skin cells from the damage caused by ultraviolet B radiation.
8. Berries are very beautifully colored and are a delicious gift from nature with many to choose from – goji berries, strawberries, blueberries, elderberries, blackberries, cranberries just to name a few).
So there you have it – the top eight foods that boost natural sun protection. Please keep in mind that eating antioxidant-rich foods alone is not the answer to sunburn prevention. Besides eating a good diet, remember that twenty minutes of sun exposure is enough for most people’s vitamin D needs. After that, you should protect yourself with a hat and clothing to cover exposed skin.
For more information on choosing a good sunscreen and best practices for responsible sunbathing, EWG.Org has good information on choosing a good sunscreen.
What other ways have you found that really works in helping to naturally fight again sun damage?