12 Foods to Protect Your Skin Against the Sun

Skin protecting foods

While food can't compete with sunscreen, a hat, or good ol' fashioned shade, some foods can boost your skin's ability to protect itself and heal from time in the sun.

The sun causes damage by producing free radicals, unstable molecules missing an electron that steal from and damage other cells in your body. Antioxidants are able to lend an extra electron to neutralize these molecules. While your body naturally produces some antioxidants, you can get even more from a healthy, plant rich diet. It makes sense - plants need protection from the sun, too, and are filled with different types of free-radical busting protection.

Research shows that having an optimal supply of antioxidants in the skin protects against UV and maintains skin health and appearance. By enjoying some of the antioxidant rich foods below on the regular, you can reap these skin protecting benefits (but still don’t skip the sunscreen).

Almonds Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant, which means it helps protect the fatty membranes of our cells from UV damage. Vitamin E is also high in sunflower seeds, avocados, spinach and other leafy greens.

Apples: An apple a day may keep cancer away, but make sure to eat the peel! Researchers at Cornell found that apple peels have a dozen different types of antioxidants that have been proven to block or kill cancer cells.

Brazil Nuts: Just one of these jumbo nuts a day will give you 100% of your daily selenium. This trace mineral is linked to not only reducing the risk of skin and other cancers, but also helps boost heart and thyroid health.

Carrots: Filled with beta-carotene, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe, all help protect skin and may reduce the intensity of a sunburn.

Dark Chocolate: As if you needed another reason to love chocolate? Flavonoids found in dark chocolate can reduce skin damage and even increase circulation and hydration in the skin, helping to give skin a healthy glow.

Kiwis: Kiwis, and other fruits like strawberries and oranges, have loads of vitamin C, which not only protects you from free radicals but can help reduce how badly you burn.

Omega-3s: Found in nuts, seeds and fatty fish, these fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Research has found that omega-3s can help protect against sun damage and can reduce the risk of certain skin cancers.

Red Bell Peppers: Just half a cup of red bell peppers has all your daily vitamin C needs. Studies have shown that eating a diet high in vitamin C can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and ease dry skin. Also reach for kale, broccoli and tomatoes.

Tea: Green tea is filled with EGCGs, powerful antioxidants that have been proven to help protect against skin cancer. Black teas have also been linked to lowering the risk of melanoma.

Tomatoes & Watermelon: Lycopene, the antioxidant that gives tomatoes and watermelon their flaming hue, has been shown to protect against sunburn and skin aging.

Wild Blueberries: These tiny berries are one of the top ranked ORAC foods, an antioxidant scale created by the National Institute of Health, and can help with healthy aging, heart disease and cancer.