Food as Medicine: Natural Sun Protection

Summer’s upon us, a time of year when people are generally happy, more balanced and energetic. Why is that? One word: SUNSHINE! At Nourished®, we often refer to the sun as the “doctor in the sky” because it has so many health benefits.

Highlights:

  • The sun is the “doctor in the sky,” providing immune-boosting vitamin D and light rays that energize, regulate the hormones and alleviate insomnia.
  • 15 to 20 minutes of being sunscreen-free between the hours of 12 and 2 pm will maximize the health benefits without overexposing the skin to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, green tea, wild-caught fish, dark chocolate and strawberries are great sources of natural sun protection.
  • Stop by the Nourished® Market to purchase our Beauty & Balance Superfood Smoothie – loaded with skin-protective nutrients that help plump, firm and fight oxidative damage.

First and foremost, sun is your best source of vitamin D, a vitamin that acts as a hormone in the body, influencing every single one of your 50 to 100 trillion cells. Best known for its role in the immune system, vitamin D also elevates mood, promotes restful sleep, supports heart health, strengthens bones and balances sleep cycles. Light rays from sun also recharge the human battery in the same way that solar panels can be used as an alternative source of electricity for the home. Furthermore, light therapy can be used to help alleviate insomnia as it resets sleep and wake cycles.

The sun is immensely powerful, but like most things, the therapy is in the dose. We’re not intended to bake in the sun like a raisin. 15 to 20 minutes of being sunscreen-free between the hours of 12 and 2 pm will maximize the health benefits without overexposing the skin to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Beyond this amount of time, UV rays create free radicals and oxidative damage that can lead to sunburn, premature aging and cancer cell formation; thus, sun protection is a must!

Did you know that foods can act as a natural form of sunscreen? Phytonutrients and antioxidants contained in brightly-colored fruits and vegetables provide natural sun protection. When we consume these plant-based foods, these protective elements are passed along. For example, carotenoids in carrots, kale, sweet potatoes and tomatoes provide a barrier against UV penetration while antioxidants such as beta carotene and chlorophyll protect against free radical damage. In a study posted by the Journal of Nutrition, people who added 40g of tomato paste and 10g of olive oil for ten weeks showed a 40% reduction in sunburn levels compared to people who added no tomato paste to their diet. Another study from the Journal of Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences found that a cup and a half of carrot juice daily led to a 45% reduction in sunburn.

Other foods that act as natural sunscreen include green tea, wild-caught fish, dark chocolate and strawberries. Rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, green tea leaves boost skin health, support the immune system, inhibit the spread of cancer cells and prevent tumor growth. According to studies, 5 to 6 cups of green tea per day was shown to have the most benefit, especially when finished with a squeeze of lemon. Not a tea drinker? Wild-caught fish, such as the Alaskan Coho Salmon and Pacific Cod sold at Nourished®, contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats that support cellular function and fight DNA damage.

Another sun-fighting superstar? Dark chocolate! Dark chocolate’s flavanols protect against harmful UVB rays and help repair damaged cells. Maximize your benefits by eating up to one ounce of organic 70% cacao content dark chocolate per day. Confused on which bar to buy? Stop in our Kitchen Market top try our homemade Dark Chocolate Almond Clusters. Topped with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and Celtic sea salt, these tasty treats are great for boosting circulation, balancing cravings and fighting dehydration.

Finally, foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits and cauliflower, support skin cell turnover, tone and texture. Loaded with these superfoods and more, our Beauty & Balance Smoothie is your skin’s best friend, helping to plump, firm and fight oxidative damage!

Although these foods are helpful, the powerful summer sun can still cause a burn. After 15 to 20 minutes of bare exposure, we strongly recommend applying sunscreen. Instead of reaching for that bottle of Banana Boat®, consider this: skin is your largest organ and anything that is applied topically is a direct shot into the bloodstream. Badger® and thinksport® are clean brand alternatives that protect against sun damage and nourish the skin without infiltrating the body with carcinogenic compounds.

Contrary to popular belief, the sun is not something to fear. Not only is it your best source of immune-boosting vitamin D, but it is also Mother Nature’s natural antidepressant and a potent disinfectant. From sleep and energy to mood and hormones, a healthy daily dose helps balance almost every system in the body. This summer, use sun responsibly and eat a colorful, antioxidant-rich diet to keep your skin nourished, youthful and cancer-free.