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Diet Your Way to Sun Protection

A skin care expert shares the best foods that can add to your SPF, plus why they work.

You’ve spent enough time out in the sun this summer to know how to protect yourself from its dangerous rays. But even if you’re diligently donning your favorite hat and a healthy layer of SPF every time you hit the beach, you’re probably still being exposed to harmful UV rays that are present even on cloudy days. That’s why it never hurts to go the extra mile, and Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas of Skin Results says there’s an easy way to boost your skin’s defenses from the inside out: Incorporate these healthy snacks and foods into your diet for added sun protection. Bonus: Many work as anti-aging agents, too.

Green Tea
How it works Also known for its fat-burning benefits, green tea is full of antioxidants that have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer. These powerful leaves “offer photo-protection from the sun’s radiation, blocking UV lights that cause skin tumors,” says Alexiades-Armenakas.
How to use it For mild sun exposure, Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas recommends applying topical extracts directly to the skin. But if you’ve suffered from skin cancer, you should be sipping the green stuff twice a day for increased protection.

Tomatoes
How they work These fresh summer faves earn a spot on the list for their high levels of lycopene, which Alexiades-Armenakas says “increases collagen levels in your skin, boosting elasticity,” as well as neutralizing the harmful effects of UV light.
How to use them She suggests tossing tomatoes with some Romaine Lettuce for a Vitamin A-rich, skin-healthy blend. Or, try an antioxidant-filled Heirloom Tomato + Grilled Peach Salad

Pomegranates
How they work Ellagic Acid and anti-inflammatories abound in this fruit’s bright, gem-like seeds, giving your skin an extra layer of protection against the summer sun. “Pomegranates have some of the most potent antioxidants in existence,” explains Alexiades-Armenakas. “Antioxidants by definition protect against free radical damage caused by UV interaction with cellular structures.”
How to use them Try whipping up a serving of Quinoa with Pomegranate, Nuts and Soft Herbs, or enjoy this forbidden fruit all by itself.

Salmon
How it works Also rich in heart-healthy Omega-3’s, salmon defends against deadly cancers with its impressive levels of sun tolerance-boosting Vitamin D, the production of which is inhibited by sunscreen.  
How to use it “Everything in moderation,” says Alexiades-Armenakas. “Eat foods full of omegas and Vitamin D so as to boost constitutive sun tolerance and native protection, but supplement by applying sunscreen when out in the sun.” In terms of preparation, the doctor notes that raw salmon (think sushi or sashimi) likely contains higher levels of UV-fighting ingredients than cooked. 

Dark Chocolate
How it works “Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids proven to improve blood circulation in cardiac vessels,” says Alexiades-Armenakas. Flavonoids increase blood flow by dilating the vessels, which helps to protect your body when your skin burns.
How to use it Add it as an ingredient to spice up your oatmeal or some plain greek yogurt for a healthy breakfast or dessert.