Eat your Sunscreen: Foods That Work as an Internal Sunscreen

Mother nature has provided us with sunscreens that don't come in plastic bottles, but rather their own yummy, colorful and biodegradable packages.

For most people, sunscreen is synonymous with sun protection. Although the importance of external sun protection (worn year round) through creams, lotions and sun protective clothing is indisputable, natural sun protection through consumption of antioxidant rich foods takes sun protection to an entirely new level. Excessive exposure to the sun can damage the skin and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Several studies demonstrate that eating antioxidant dense foods internally fortify the skin and increase its ability to become more tolerant to ultraviolet (UV) exposure

dark chocolate
Chocolate is packed with antioxidants found in its cocoa flavonoids. These flavonoids safeguard your skin against photo damage. Be aware, though, that milk chocolate does not have the same effect because milk prevents the absorption of
polyphenols, or plant chemicals that have antiinflammatory and antibacterial capabilities. Buy dark chocolate with a low content of sugar.

black, white & green tea
All of these teas contain polyphenols that help fight the battle against UV rays. However, green tea has more epigallocatechin–3–gallate (EGCG), the most powerful polyphenol of them all. You can say EGCG is a multitasking chemical that slows down sun-related skin aging, prevents skin cancer, and inhibits tumor cells. What’s also interesting is green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps you relax. It also means that it can stop the production of stress hormone, cortisol, from destroying collagen fibers.

You can boost your sunscreen by popping a pomegranate-extract supplement (up to 60 mg; at health-food stores). This can enhance skin's sun-protective properties by 25 percent, says L.A. dermatologist Howard Murad. You can also drink pomegranate juice, or eat the pomegranate fruit.

The small study done by Howard Murad, eight subjects (five females and three males, ages 18 to 60 with fair to medium skin types) used pomegranate extract orally and topically. First their minimal erythema dose (MED) was tested. Next, they applied four formulas (standard SPF 4 and SPF 8) lotions with and without pomegranate extact) and assessed MED. Subjects then tested pomegranate extract daily for five days under supervision. At the endpoint, subjects were tested again for MED. Based on this research, adding pomegranate extract boosted the SPF of the sunscreen formula by 20 percent. Over and above that, ingesting a tablet of standardized pomegranate extract provides an additional 25 percent improvement in the SPF.

broccoli & broccoli sprouts
Paul Talalay, MD, from Johns Hopkins University has studied the protective benefits of broccoli for twenty-five years. He and his colleagues have discovered that broccoli sprouts are powerful when it comes to cancer and sun protection. He warns, “Broccoli isn’t a substitute for sunscreen, but the protection you get won’t wash off in the pool”. You can incorporate the benefits of broccoli for protection from skin cancer from the sun by eating one half cup daily. Put broccoli on a salad or add some broccoli sprouts to your sandwich.

coconut oil
Used both externally and internally, coconut oil provides natural sun protection, as well as a long list of other impressive health benefits. Coconut oil contains SPF 2. Be sure to buy virgin unrefined coconut oil for maximum benefits.

lycopene in tomatoes
Lycopene is found in red fruits such as tomatoes, red bell pepper and watermelon. Unlike many other fruits and vegetables, where the nutritional content is diminished through cooking, processing tomatoes actually increases the amount of bioavailable lycopene. Thus, tomato paste has much more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. Processing doesn't mean only cooking, though. Blending tomatoes increases lycopene just as much.

In a study
, people who consumed tomato paste had 33% more protection against sunburn compared to a control group after 12 weeks. The level of protection was equal to a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3, which is low compared to a good sunscreen but still quite significant. The daily amount was 55 grams (or five tablespoons) of tomato paste consumed with olive oil. It also boosted the level of procollagen in the skin, which suggests potential reversal of the skin aging process.

dark leafy greens & other carotenoids 
Carotenoids with molecules containing oxygen are known as xanthophylls, while unoxygenated carotenoids are known as carotenes. Xanthophylls are found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Carotenes are found in vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, mangos and apricots etc.. Carotenes are also responsible for the orange color.

In a study by Gonzalez et al.,
mice whose diets were enriched with lutein and zeaxanthin two common xanthophylls for two weeks had fewer negative effects from ultraviolet B irradiation. The more lutein and zeaxanthin they ate, the more protection they had. The results suggest that eating foods rich in these nutrients will provide at least some protection from the sun.

A meta-analysis by Kopcke & Krutmann
concluded that beta-carotene is effective in protecting the skin against the sun.

chlorella & spirulina
chlorella and spirulina, are often called superfoods for their high nutrient content. With loads of vitamin E, carotene and other nutrients, spirulina and chlorella have been shown to protect the skin significantly from the sun when taken regularly.

heliocare pills
Heliocare has been around for awhile and it is apparently the first oral sun protectant with clinically proven ability to prevent free radicals, premature aging and hyperpigmentation caused by harmful UV rays. The product contains three natural ingredients (beta-carotene, green tea and a natural fern extract) that help protect against the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. The main ingredient Fernblock, is the patented fern extract of Polypodium leucotomos and is 100% natural.

According to the NeoAsia website, Heliocare has been researched extensively at Harvard Medical School for more than 12 years by renowned scientists. In addition, its findings are published in leading medical journals, including the top journal for dermatology – The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

omega 3 fatty acids
A recent study shows omega 3 fatty acids actually protect the skin from the inflammatory response (sunburn) after too much sun exposure and that these super nutrients also reduce the risk of some skin cancers. The study’s findings also show that omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in preventing and reducing the damaging effects of sun. In humans, omega 3 fatty acids also increase the time it takes to become sunburned, the review concluded, very similar to what sunscreens do.
In experimental animal studies, the reviewers noted, there is direct evidence that dietary omega 3 fatty acids inhibited the cancerous changes that occur after ultraviolet radiation, including decreasing tumor growth and reducing the cancer cell’s ability to multiply.

Omega 3's, as you may be aware of by now, are found in chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds and algae.


Oral supplementation of healthy volunteers with pycnogenol was shown to help prevent UV damage and the resulting photoaging. Pycnogenol also inhibits the inflammation caused by UV-exposure, consequently protecting the skin from sunburn. Pycnogenol also has a long list of other benefits. A recommended supplement.

the sunpill
The SunPill is a pill that boosts UV protection by protecting the skin from the inside out. The SunPill was developed to protect people from the rays of the sun using a more natural approach. New research from the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that the fern extract in these pills significantly reduced UVA-related DNA damage that leads to wrinkling and brown spotsThe ingredient list looks impressive: Polypodium Leucotomos (fern), Pomegranate, Aloe vera, Astaxanthin, Ashwagandha, Beetroot, Green tea.

murad pomphenol sunguard
Pomphenol Sunguard by Murad contains large amounts of pomegranate extract in the form of ellagic acid to provide sun protection. Ellagic acid is an antioxidant found in many fruits, nuts and pomegranates and is believed to have anti-cancer properties. A small study of 13 women found that ellagic acid inhibited the hyperpigmentation that comes from UV exposure. You might want to forgo buying this, as a simple pomegranate supplement without the Murad name will give you about the same thing and you'll save money.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, a pigment that is responsible for the red coloration in some fish and red ocean plants. Commercially it is extracted from microalgae. Because of its extraordinary antioxidant power astaxanthin acts as a fantastic internal sunscreen to prevent your skin from burning even when exposure is excessive although that is not recommended. It can also protect your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun. It does however, take time to build up the antioxidant protection in your skin. It may take 2 - 4 weeks to build up adequate sun protection.

Foods & Herbs that Make you More Sun Sensitive
Celery, limes, figs, carrots and parsnips all contain a compound called photoirritant. This photoirritant compound cause people who have eaten or touched the food to be more sensitive to the sun.

Herbs like St. John's wort, chrysanthemum, dandelion, sunflower, dong quai, marigold and arnica could also cause sun sensitivity in some people.

The artificial sweetener known as saccharin, and ibuprofen cause sun sensitivity.

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