Everyone knows to slather on the sunscreen to block the sun’s UV rays, but there’s one crucial step your sun-protection routine might be missing: Breakfast!
Diet is an often-overlooked part of how we adapt to our external environments throughout the seasons. Let’s take a look into why the first meal of the day can prep and protect your healthy summer glow.
Why eating these ingredients in the daytime is important
Turns out we have a “skin clock,” says Joseph S. Takahashi, PhD, chairman of neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. In his 2017 study, Takahashi and his team found that an enzyme that repairs UV-damaged skin has a daily cycle of production that can be altered by eating food at unusual times.
“It is likely that if you have a normal eating schedule, then you will be better protected from UV during the daytime. If you have an abnormal eating schedule, that could cause a harmful shift in your skin clock,” he said in a press release.
So rather than a midnight snack, try incorporating these skin-loving foods into your smoothies to add a little extra sun protection into your diet:
It just so happens that our favorite summer fruits are also the ones that help protect us during summer, too.
Blueberries are rich in powerful antioxidants that fight off free radicals that can damage skin due to sun exposure and stress. Blueberries are even more powerful if they’re a wild variety. They’re also a very good source of vitamin C, which can help prevent wrinkles from a day on the beach.
Quick breakfast: Get your meal prep on with on-the-go breakfast parfaits made with layers of homemade, 15-minute blueberry chia jam, coconut yogurt, and granola.
Tomatoes are known for containing lycopene, an antioxidant responsible for tomatoes’ red color. But watermelons actually contain far more. Lycopene absorbs both UVA and UVB radiation, although it may take several weeks for the skin to become more photoprotective due to its turnover rate, according to a 2012 study.
After a few weeks of daily, juicy watermelon consumption (not too hard to manage in the hot weather!), lycopene can eventually act as a natural sunblock. Researchers note, though, that it doesn’t necessarily take the place of other protective measures, like SPF and sun-protective clothing, against sunspots and skin damage. But when it comes to anti-aging, this extra boost sure won’t hurt.
On the side: Add a fruity twist to the next batch of chips and dip you bring to the BBQ with fresh, vitamin C-rich watermelon salsa.
3. Nuts and seeds
Walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax all contain omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish and eggs are also great sources of this clean, skin-loving fat. Our bodies can’t make omega-3s, so it’s essential that we get them from our diet.
What do omega-3s do for your skin? They help maintain your skin’s integrity and are anti-inflammatory, too. Omega-3s also help your body naturally cope with the effects of spending a little too much time in the sun.
Quick snack: Trail mix never goes out of style, especially when you can switch things up and choose your own adventure each time.
4. Carrots and leafy greens
Our bodies convert beta carotene into vitamin A, which is vital for skin health. A 2007 meta-analysis found that beta carotene provided natural sun protection after 10 weeks of regular supplementation.
Eating a variety of foods rich in this nutrient makes getting the daily quota a little easier. Carrots and leafy greens like kale and spinach are great beta carotene-packed additions to your meals, even breakfast smoothies.
In particular, leafy greens are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These have been found to protect against wrinkling, sun damage, and even skin cancer.
Salad days: This easy kale salad is a colorful lunch option tossed with carrots and sweet potato to deliver a real beta carotene-packed punch.
5. Green tea
In a 2010 study, researchers found that green tea consumption led to fewer tumors induced by UV light in mice. This was due to a flavanol contained in both green and black tea known as EGCG.
Another animal study on green tea found that it reduced skin damage from UVA light and protected against the decrease of collagen. Collagen is our body’s most abundant protein. It gives skin its integrity and firmness.
Sip on this: Make the most of summer produce and shake up some cooled green tea with ice, mint leaves, and your favorite citrus fruits.
When it comes to veggies and fruits, a general health rule to live and shop by is to gravitate toward more vibrantly colored eats. This is because they’re likely to have more antioxidants.
But don’t let cauliflower’s pale florets fool you. This cruciferous veggie is the exception to the rule. Cauliflower contains potent antioxidants that help fight off oxidative stress from free radicals.
On top of this perk, cauliflower is also a naturally sun-protective food thanks to histidine. This alpha-amino acid stimulates the production of urocanic acid, which absorbs UV radiation.
Grill this: If you eat hearty for breakfast, try a cauliflower steak with creamy chili-lime sauce.
Super Summer Sunblock Smoothie
Who says you can’t drink your sun shield? This smoothie helps you beat the heat and contains all of the skin-protective ingredients listed above. Add it to your morning rotation for a healthier glow all summer long.
Credit: Kristen Ciccolini
- 1 1/2 cup green tea, cooled
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup watermelon
- 1/2 cup cauliflower
- 1 small carrot
- 2 tbsp. hemp hearts
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 3-5 ice cubes
Place ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. For a thicker smoothie, use 1 cup green tea.
While these nutrient-rich, whole foods may support the health of your skin when exposed to UV light, keep in mind that they’re not a substitute for sunscreen. Still apply sunscreen every day to prevent sun damage and skin cancer. Think of these foods as a little extra insurance if you happen to oversoak the sun’s rays.