There is growing evidence that dietary antioxidants used in combination with sunscreen may improve overall UV protective benefits for our skin rather than either alone. Here are some key foods and beverages that host some important antioxidants targeted at protecting our birthday suit (insert: naked emoji):
Coffee consumption has demonstrated a protective effect against skin cancer, a result that is due to both the caffeine and polyphenol content of coffee. A study has found that women who drank 3 or more cups of coffee per day were 21 % less likely to develop Basal Cell Carcinoma. There was also a study in Japan that revealed regular coffee consumption was correlated with reduced facial pigmentation spots. Sweet.
Recent studies on broccoli sprout extract have shown that it is able to defend skin cells against UV damage by boosting a network of enzymes that have a natural sun protective action. In a study on broccoli sprout extract showed reductions of UV-induced erythema between 8 to 78%, with a mean of 37.7%. The variance in protection levels is thought to be due to genetic factors, lifestyle or diet. Nontheless the study shows promising information to be further researched.
Rich in Lycopene, another antioxidant carotenoid, tomatoes have been found to reduce skin redness and UV induced skin abnormalities by up to 40%. In a study conducted in Germany a control group of participants consumed 40 g of tomato paste daily for 10 weeks. Tomato paste is a richer form of lycopene compared to fresh tomatoes due to being more concentrated. Other good sources of lycopene include watermelon and pink grapefruit.
Dark chocolate. Sorry milk chocolate fans, but there ain't a lot good about milk chocolate. But dark chocolate on the other hand, is incredibly rich in flavanols which have a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action significant protective effect against the suns UV rays. A study in the UK that involved eating 20 g every day for 12 weeks resulted in participants being able to withstand double the amount of UVB rays before their skin started to redden, compared with those who ate milk chocolate.
Keep it Covered….
Whilst all these findings are fantastic to hear, the protection is limited, and they do not replace the need for adequate barrier protection when it comes to skin cancer prevention. Using good quality sunscreen, and keeping yourself shaded is always number one, but take advantage of food as medicine and consider these antioxidants as part of your sun protection strategy.
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(Naturopath & Skincare Geek)