Eat Your SPF: How To Protect Your Skin Through Your Diet This Summer

We all understand the importance of sunscreen. It blocks out harmful UV rays, protects our skin from burning and, of course, provides wrinkle protection.

Regardless of how much sunblock we lather on, however, unwanted tan lines seem inevitable during the summer months.

As registered dietitians, we understand the science behind food, nutrition and health, so we’re here to share some good news: There are foods you can eat to help avoid your next awkward sunburn.

Because let’s be real: The sunglasses tan, paired with the farmer’s tan, isn't cute.

By maintaining a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, you can eat to protect your skin.

That’s right; certain foods naturally confer SPF-like benefits because they are generally high in antioxidants.

Tovita Nutrition is going to bring you back to science class for a moment.

Think of antioxidants as the lifeguards for your body’s cells: They are compounds found in nutrients and vitamins that swim around your body and give up their electrons to otherwise harmful free radicals, to prevent them from causing damage to your organs.

Free radicals are responsible for disrupting normal cell function, and contribute to conditions like cancer and premature aging.

A diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents will help to combat these disease-inducing free radicals to which the sun exposes us.

Now don’t toss the Coppertone altogether; you still need to wear your SPF lotion. But, for all the times you “miss a spot,” let your diet be your extra protection.

Peppers, Tomatoes and Watermelon

What do these fruits and veggies have in common? They are rich in antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene, which are responsible for their bright pigments.

Lycopene works to prevent free radical formation in the body, while beta-carotene from produce has been shown to protect against UV damage.

Next time you’re filling up your beach cooler, be sure to throw in some fresh watermelon slices.

Fun fact: Cooked tomatoes have a higher lycopene content than fresh tomatoes. Consider adding a tomato-based gazpacho soup to the menu at your next dinner party.

Salmon and Shrimp

These are just two examples of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, meaning they have awesome anti-inflammatory properties.

As you age, you are more inclined to develop inflammation throughout your body, which tends to be painful and increases your risk of chronic disease.

Studies have found evidence that omega-3s may protect against certain types of skin cancer and can help to reduce inflammation in general.

Yes, we just gave you permission to brunch lavishly with shrimp cocktail all summer long.

Broccoli, Kale and Cauliflower

This is also known as the cruciferous family. These veggies are antioxidant superstars! They not only help the skin protect itself from cancer, but also benefit all of your organs.

They are loaded with sulforaphane and other antioxidants that work synergistically to keep you free radical-free.

We knew you were hoping we would give you another reason to eat kale.

Spinach and Other Greens

The darker the leaf, the higher its nutrient profile. This doesn’t mean iceberg lettuce is a no-go; it just means spinach is packed with more vitamins and minerals, so you get a bigger bang for your buck.

As you may have guessed by now, these veggies are loaded with antioxidants galore.

Aside from offering skin protection, spinach is an excellent source of vitamins K, A and E, and offers a laundry list of minerals. If you aren’t feeling the classic spinach salad, throw some into your next smoothie. The taste is subtle, we promise.

Dark Chocolate

You need a nutritionist’s permission to justify your sweet tooth, right? You’ll be happy to know this sweet treat is chockfull of flavanoids, a class of antioxidants that helps protect against sun damage.

Besides skin protection, dark chocolate is scientifically proven to make you happier. Dark chocolate contains serotonin, the “feel good” hormone.

Just remember, the higher the cocoa content, the more health benefits the chocolate contains (and lower the sugar content). Aim for 65 percent cocoa or higher.

Sorry, but this isn’t an excuse to dust off a box of chocolates. Stick to a single serving size to reap the benefits.