How to Fight Sun Damage (Besides Using Sunscreen)

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Summer has officially started. That means weekends spent out in the sweet summer sun. Unfortunately, that also means putting ourselves at higher risk for sunburn. While sunscreen is a must to protect our skin, it’s not the only thing we can do to keep the largest organ in our body (yup!) healthy. The food we put in our body, affects what happens on the surface. The foods you eat can affect everything from sunburns to wrinkles, and everything in between. See our tips for protecting and preserving your skin below.

Eat whole foods.

Eating whole, unprocessed foods is the number one way to ensure that your skin is getting all of the nutrients it needs. All of the vitamins and minerals that we consume from food get filtered through our digestive system, and distributed to every cell in our body. Your skin is their last destination, so make sure you get the most bang for your buck by eating plenty of whole, nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Avoid refined sugars.

Excess refined sugar consumption (think candy, cookies, cake, muffins, breads, and pasta) causes an increase in a metabolic process called glycation. This process ultimately causes damage to all proteins, but particularly skin cell proteins that are responsible for making skin elastic and plump, causing wrinkles and discoloration. Steer clear of foods that contain sugar (in it's many forms) and fuel your body with high-fiber carbohydrates like intact whole grains (oats, barley, brown rice), fruits, and starchy vegetables.

Consume adequate amounts of antioxidants.

We often get wrapped up in slathering on sunscreen, but the truth is, what we eat is our first line of defense against sun damage. Adequate antioxidant intake is essential for fighting free radical damage caused by excess sun exposure. So before squeezing in the last of the summer rays, indulge in a salad full of dark leafy greens, a bowl full of blueberries or raspberries, sunflower seeds, and oranges. For a mega dose of antioxidants, try superfoods such as spirulina, goji berries, and cacao.

Eat healthy fats.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids, or essential fatty acids (meaning our body cannot make them, we must eat them), are the primary molecules that make up our skin (and other) cells. They also contain potent anti-inflammatory benefits making them key players in fighting blotchiness, acne, redness and dark, puffy under eye circles. Try adding fatty fish, walnuts, chia, hemp, or ground flaxseeds, avocados, and olives to your daily diet.

Drink up!

While summer usually calls for margaritas and other cocktails with an umbrella in them, we’re talking about water here. Plain water, fruits, and vegetables are the best way to keep your skin hydrated to prevent dryness and promote full, supple, hydrated skin cells. Make sure to read our post on how to know if you’re getting enough water, and our tips for staying hydrated besides drinking water.

So does this mean you'll never have to wear sunscreen again? Of course not. But what you put on your body isn't the only thing that counts! Make sure you and your family follow the tips above and have your healthiest summer yet.

For some of the best sunscreen recommendations, check out the Environmental Working Group’s best rated sunscreens for protection and environmental health.