8 Foods for Natural Sun Protection (Yes, They Exist!)

Foods that Offer Sun Protection
By: Abigail Hueber

Hellllooo Summer! The temperature is climbing and the sun is beckoning us to come outside, stay a while and enjoy its warm rays. This is what summer is all about, getting out and getting active. But remember, those warm rays may feel great but a little goes a long way. Be informed this summer, sun safely and take care of your skin so it can take care of you for a lifetime!

I know what you might be thinking…yeah, yeah sunscreen, we get it. But there is more to proper sun care than you might think! Get sun savvy with these tips to keep your skin happy and healthy this summer.

Top 8 Nutrients & Foods for Sun Protection:

It’s true, you can actually eat foods that help protect your skin against harmful sun rays from the inside out! Plants contain a plethora of naturally occurring chemicals, such as phytonutrients and antioxidants, that help provide the plants sun protection and in turn when consumed by us provide our bodies with a similar benefit! Phytonutrients, such as carotenoids found in colorful plants provide a pigmented barrier to help reduce UV penetration while antioxidants in plants work to protect against free radicals that are created in response to damaging UV rays. Plant chemicals help to protect our skin from the suns damaging effects, keeping our skin cells healthy and strong.

  • Carotenoids: Green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, mangos and other orange/yellow veggies!
  • Lycopene: The red pigment found in watermelon, tomatoes, papaya, pink guava, red bell peppers and pink grapefruit.
  • Lutein: Protects our skin and eyes! Dark green leafy vegetables, kale, peas, Brussels sprouts, zucchini and broccoli.
  • Polyphenols: Studies show just 2 ounces of dark chocolate or 1-2 cups of tea daily has shown to reduce risk of squamous cell cancer by 30%! Green and black teas, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic and cocoa.
  • Astaxanthin: Found in micro-algae, such as chlorella and spirulina, as well as wild salmon, krill and shellfish have shown to protect both skin and eyes against UV radiation.
  • Vitamin E: A powerful antioxidant that reduces and absorbs harmful UV rays from penetrating skin found in nuts, seeds, oats and other whole grain foods.
  • Vitamin C: Prevents against premature skin aging and cancer through its antioxidant activity. Found in strawberries, kiwi, citrus fruits and peppers.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Reduce inflammation and protect skin from sunburns and melanoma. Found in wild salmon, herring, mackerel, algae/seaweed, green leafy vegetables, flax, hemp and chia seeds.

Lifestyle Habits for Sun Protection:

  • Wear Clothes: Hats, shirts, shorts and pants all work to shield your skin from the harmful UV rays, reducing your exposure by 27%!
  • Time your Sun: The sun’s rays are strongest in the middle of the day from 10am-2pm. Plan your activities outside of the high times or be mindful that the sun is strongest if your out and about!
  • Shade is your Friend: Shade of a tree or umbrella reduces suns UV rays by 30% and keeps you cool!
  • Sunglasses: Buy polarized sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the suns UV rays, your eyes need protection too!

Choosing the Right Sunscreen: 

Eating foods that protect your skin from the sun is great, but in the height of the summer sun, just eating your sun protection isn’t quite enough. Sunscreen is an important part of proper sun protection and should be practiced year round. That being said, there are some funky ingredients in our sunscreen products these days which make choosing a safe product a little tricky.

Lucky for us the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done the dirty work! The EWG has researched thousands of sun care products rating each one according to effectiveness, chemical composition and any associated health concerns. The result, a comprehensive list compiling the best and worst sunscreens on the market to help make your sun care choice clear.

Check out their extensive lists before you stock up this summer!

Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens

Best Moisturizers with SPF

The Hall of Shame: Worst Sunscreens


But what about Vitamin D?

It is true that sunscreen impacts our bodies’ ability to make vitamin D from sunshine, as it blocks the sun rays from penetrating our skin to stimulate vitamin D production. Rather, a little sun is all you need.

Just 5-15 minutes of sun exposure on the majority of your body is enough the  produce ample daily vitamin D.

**It is recommended to get your vitamin D levels checked by your physician to see if you have adequate levels. Learn more about getting enough vitamin D.

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Abigail Hueber

Abigail is passionate about helping individuals attain optimal health and well-being through whole-food plant-based diets. She is a Registered Dietitian, having completed her graduate studies at Simmons College and received her BA in Health and Exercise Sciences from Gettysburg College. Abby is the dietitian and wellness director for Newton Country Day School, an all-girls school in Newton, MA where she works to empower girls to develop a healthy relationship with food and their own body. Abby also works with private clients in Boston, MA. Abby is a certified yoga teacher and incorporates the practice of yoga into her school-based wellness curriculum as well as her work with individual clients. When Abby isn’t working with clients or students, she can be found practicing yoga, cooking creative healthy recipes, skiing and spending time with friends and family. Abigail is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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