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Dr. Perricone Discusses

6 Foods to Prevent Sun Damage

While a few minutes of sunlight a day gives us a healthy dose of Vitamin D, excessive exposure to UV rays can activate free radicals in the skin and cause accelerated aging and skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. Free radicals generate wild chain reactions and impair skin cells through a process called oxidation, comparable to rusting. The cells are punctured then torn apart, resulting in skin wrinkling.

The skin reacts to the damaging effects of UV rays by generating an immune response-inflammation--which is visible as sunburn. What many do not know is that the body's immune system plays an important role in the protection of the skin from harmful rays that lead to inflammation of the skin. For this reason, I strongly recommend a three-tiered approach to sun protection: 1) the use of a non-chemical protective sunscreen for the face and body daily; 2) nutritional support in the form of antioxidants to strengthen the skin's immune system and protect it from further sun damage; and 3) an antioxidant-rich diet complete with high quality proteins, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates and clean water.

These foods can help protect against UV protection from the inside out:

Wild salmon This fish is an outstanding source of the carotenoid antioxidant known as astaxanthin, (1000 times more effective than Vitamin E), which helps to repair damage from UV rays and keep skin radiant and youthful.  The omega 3 essential fatty acids in salmon also act as powerful, protective anti-inflammatories.

In addition to salmon, mackerel, trout, herring and sardines are also rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids that can protect skin from deadly melanoma and other forms of skin cancer from sunburn.

Green tea Along with strawberries, blue and blackberries, apples, and cocoa, green tea is an antioxidant food high in catechins which also protect the skin from UV damage. The deeper and richer the color, the higher the catechin content. The most powerful catechin is Epigallocatechin-3 Gallate (EGCG) which is 100 times more potent than Vitamin C and 25 times stronger than Vitamin E.  Green tea is one of our richest sources of EGCG.

Cocoa The ingestion of high flavanol cocoa led to increases in blood flow of cutaneous and subcutaneous tissues, and to increases in skin density and skin hydration. Dietary flavanols from cocoa contribute to endogenous photo-protection, improve dermal blood circulation, and affect cosmetically relevant skin surface and hydration variables.

Tomatoes A study, performed in 2001, looked at volunteers who ate 40 grams of tomato paste over a ten-week period. The group was forty percent less likely to experience sunburn when exposed to harmful UV rays.  But don't forget to add a little olive oil to insure absorption of the special skin-protecting phytochemicals.

Watermelon This summer melon is rich in lycopene, making it a great choice to protect your skin from sunburn and possibility of developing skin cancer.

Lycopene can prevent UV-induced sunburn. It is rich in the aforementioned tomatoes and tomato paste, watermelon as well as apricots, pink grapefruit and red (not orange) carrots.

Broccoli Sprouts A member of the cruciferous family, broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, which is linked to increasing the skin's ability to protect itself from cancer. Broccoli sprouts are the richest source of cancer-fighting glucoraphanin, the precursor of sulforaphane.

And don't forget Ginger and Turmeric. These delightful spicy roots can be added to salads, stir fries, curries, soups and stews. Ginger prevents the breakdown of elastin in the skin, helping to prevent the wrinkles that result from UV radiation. Turmeric, an antioxidant, anti-aging powerhouse, protects collagen—key in keeping your skin youthful and radiant.