By nutrition editor Amanda Ursell
With another two weeks of intense summer sun coming our way, your skin is at risk of taking an extra battering from damaging UV rays. Check out our top foods to protect and nourish your body’s largest organ from the inside out.
Fresh orange bowl
Start the day with this powerful citrus fruit – on its own or in a refreshing fruit salad. It’s packed with super nutrients naringin and hesperidin, which have been shown to slow down glycation, a reaction in the skin that weakens collagen – and, in combination with sun damage, leads to wrinkles.
Carrot and coriander salad
Carrots are bursting with the orange pigment beta-carotene, which collects under our skin and acts as an internal SPF by deflecting some of the sun’s damaging rays. Have them steamed, in salads, roasted with other root vegetables, in soups or simply as carrot juice to help give your skin an internal SPF3. Other beta-carotene-rich vegetables include dark cabbage and sprouts.
Tomato juice – or tomatoes in any form, whether canned, fresh, cooked or in a tomato-based gazpacho soup – are packed with lycopene, a red-coloured antioxidant, which has been shown in Italian research to reduce the formation of fine lines during sun exposure.
Great for the yellow super-nutrient lutein, which (although it’s disguised in kale by the green pigment chlorophyll) collects in the skin as well as the macula lutea of the eye, helping to protect not only your skin but also your eyesight from sun damage and blindness in later life.
Tropical fruit salad
Chop up papaya, which has almost as much beta-carotene as carrots and mix in some mango and diced kiwi. This is loaded with zeaxanthin, another yellow pigment that helps to protect your skin and eyes from sun damage by absorbing blue light that otherwise damages the macula lutea.
As well as topping up lycopene, watermelon is 93% water, which means tucking into a 260g slice gives you 240ml water – that’s almost equivalent to drinking half a 500ml bottle of water! Being dehydrated quickly shows in your skin, accentuating lines, which can then get deeper through sun damage.
Cashew and walnut snack pack
Along with blueberries, grapes and mango, these nuts have good levels of the plant compound gallic acid. This super nutrient is a powerful antioxidant, potentially helping sun damage leading to cancerous changes in the body, and it also dampens down inflammation, one of the side-effects of sun exposure in the skin.
Rich in the fascinating super nutrients called liminoids, these compounds have been shown in test tube experiments to detoxify carcinogens and to cause cancerous cells to self-destruct; it’s a potentially useful weapon against free radical damage triggered by UV rays.
This gives us isoflavones, the plant version of human oestrogen, a hormone we need to help keep our skin moist and supple. Regular soya in our diets may help in part to counter the drying effects of sun exposure on our skin.
Great for vitamin C, which our bodies need for a wide range of roles, including wound healing and strong gums, not to mention having a vital role in making and maintaining good quality collagen, which helps to keep your skin youthful and resilient.