How to naturally protect skin: Top 10 diet and food swaps to ‘repair’ damaged skin

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As the weather warms up and people take to the outdoors to enjoy it, Britons face increased exposure to the sun’s UV rays, and with that increased exposure comes a whole host of damaging effects. From those who may be suffering from sunburn and dry skin, to those who want tips to naturally boost your tan, solutions appear to lie within your diet.

Lifesum nutritionist Dr Alona Pulde said: “Britain’s favourite fruit and veg, including carrots and tomatoes, provide a low-fat way to lose or maintain weight and optimise your overall wellbeing, but they also contribute to a healthy tan.”

“This is primarily so because they are rich in beta-carotene, which enhances skin colour, and lycopene, which protects against skin damage.”

To aid with natural skin protection, as well as foods to promote a natural tan, Dr Pulde unveils the top fruits and vegetables and the volume of which to consume.

Five foods to boost a natural, healthy tan

Carrots are a fantastic source to opt for if you’re hoping to develop some natural colour while boosting skin protection.

Dr Pulde said: “Contrary to popular belief, the beta-carotene in carrots will not turn skin orange.

“Instead, it helps to give that healthy tanned glow while protecting skin from sun damage.”

When skin is exposed to UV light it can cause erythema, which translates to the reddening of skin as a result of irritation, prompting the blood capillaries to dilate.

Beta-carotene is an efficient antioxidant and when adequate portions that contain it are consumed, studies have shown it to diminish erythema.

Beta-carotene is also a precursor to vitamin A, which has properties that can help boost the production of melanin in the skin, promoting a good foundation for any tanning. So if you’re hoping to reduce any burn and/or develop a more natural tan, carrots should help with this.

Like carrots, sweet potatoes are another key food for any carotenoid-boosting sources.

Dr Pulde said: “These have really high levels of carotenoids, which contribute to a natural glow, making skin look healthier.”

Broccoli, cantaloupe, and tomatoes are also top fruits and vegetables to consume if a natural, healthy tan is your goal.

Dr Pulde said: “Not only does broccoli contain carotenoids to encourage skin to colour, but also vitamin C that enhances the immune system and supports collagen production to keep skin looking young and healthy.

With cantaloupe, Dr Pulde advises: “Go for the orange flesh melons as they have as much beta-carotene as carrots.

“Additionally, their high water content helps to hydrate on warm days while contributing to healthy, more radiant skin.

Tomatoes are not only rich in beta-carotene for that healthy glow, but they also contain lycopene which protects against sun damage, skin discolouration, fine lines and wrinkles, according to the Lifesum nutritionist.

Dr Pulde told “Lycopene is a very potent antioxidant in the carotenoids family. As an antioxidant, it neutralises free radicals that are responsible for damaging skin cells.

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“In addition, it enhances communication and connectivity between cells helping to maintain skin texture and produce younger healthier-looking skin.

“Lycopene also protects collagen production, which allows the skin to retain its firmness and elasticity and prevents sagging and wrinkles.”

“Studies show the recommended daily intake of lycopene is between 8-20mg per day with some doctors recommending about 10mg per day as part of a healthy diet (70mg per week).

“Although supplements are available, getting your nutrients from foods is preferred for maximum benefit.”

Dr Pulde provided a rough guideline of how much lycopene resides in certain food products, so if you’re unsure about portion sizes, you can use the below to gauge it.

  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce = 37 mg
  • 2 cups watermelon = about 14 mg
  • 1 red tomato = about 4.5mg
  • 2 cups papaya = about 5 mg
  • 1 tbsp ketchup = 2mg

Five foods to repair and protect skin from sun damage

Blueberries are a strong fruit contender for skin protection, due to their rich base of nourishing nutrients.

Dr Pulde said: “Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, that all in all help to protect and repair skin against sun damage, as well as support collagen production to keep skin supple.”

The key antioxidant for skin health is anthocyanin, which happens to be the pigment behind the blueberries’ indigo hue.

Anthocyanin is known to boost collagen synthesis, which helps with skin elasticity.

Watermelon, green tea, avocados, and leafy greens have been noted as especially good foods for skin repair and protection, due to the vital fats and vitamins they contain.

Dr Pulde said: “Watermelon has even more lycopene than tomatoes, and while its rich water content helps to maintain hydration on warm days, the increased lycopene can help keep skin healthy and youthful.”

While the polyphenol antioxidants found in green tea can work to protect cells from UV-induced damage, it also offers the added benefits of reducing inflammation, soothing the skin, and decreasing oil production, according to Dr Pulde.

Dr Pulde said: “In addition to their healthy fats, avocados are rich in vitamins C and E, and leafy greens – including kale, spinach, collars and cabbage, are rich in the antioxidants that protect against skin damage while enhancing skin repair.”

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