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8 Nutrients That Can Help Protect You From The Sun’s UV Radiation


We love the sun for a lot of reasons. It cheers us up, it keeps us warm and it gives us the vitamin D3 our bodies majorly depend on.

On the other hand, the sun’s UV radiation in excess can produce genetic mutations that lead to skin cancer. Government organizations have even identified UV as a proven human carcinogen. (Source)

But the other thing is, ingredients in most sunscreens aren’t much better! Have you seen our infographic highlighting What Toxic Chemicals Your Body Is Absorbing?

Ingredients in the most common everyday lotions, sunscreens and cosmetics are loaded with potentially toxic threats to people’s health.

Natural and organic mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are supposed to be better. However, there’s been some controversy about titanium dioxide likely being toxic, too. Some reports warn us about spray sunscreens because of concerns about breathing in the ingredients.

Check out this quick video as Dr. Elizabeth Plourde talks about why we should treat most sunscreen as a hazardous waste.

So, it seems we’re caught in this pickle of wanting to absorb the sun’s nutrients but avoid its UV radiation at the same time. We also want to stay protected from harmful rays, but not with sunscreen and sunblocks that have endocrine disruptive ingredients in them.

Don’t worry, there’s good news! It just so happens, there are specific nutrients that offer natural protection from the sun’s harmful rays in addition to their many other benefits inside our bodies.

Here are eight of those nutrients along with specific foods to focus on eating during those hot summer months.

1. Polyphenols

Polyphenols are a group of essential antioxidants found in almost all plant foods. The experts from The World’s Healthiest Foods tell us that our risk of heart diseases, degenerative diseases of the nervous system, as well as many types of cancer can be reduced with a diet rich in polyphenols.

Green Tranquility Tea, 24 Bags, NOW Foods
Green Tranquility from NOW Foods is a blend of organic green tea with lemon myrtle.

There have also been studies that prove these nutrients can reduce skin inflammation and irritation caused by exposure to the sun. They also counteract free radical damage caused by the sun’s UV rays.

Green tea is great source of polyphenols. Other foods that provide an excellent source are dark fruits like pomegranate, plums and cherries. Red pigmented veggies, like rhubarb and red cabbage are also rich in polyphenols.

2. Omega-3 Essential Fats

We could go on and on about the health benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids. An EFA deficiency or imbalance is very common and serious. It can actually lead to a stunning number of common health issues like acne, ADHD, arthritis, ezcema, hair loss, depression, obesity and so many more.

Adding more of these essential fats back into our diets can keep us on the right track to wellness and help protect us from the sun’s UV radiation.

Evidence shows Omega-3’s are capable of reducing UV-induced inflammation in human skin as well as offer protection against photo-immunosuppression, photo-cinogenesis, photo-ageing and photo-sensitivity disorders.

According to MindBodyGreen and other sources, omega-3 fats inhibit inflammation from UVB rays by up to 52 percent!

Wild salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seed, hemp seed, olive oil, cod liver oil and fish oil are some of the best EFA sources we can eat.

3. Selenium

mushroomsSelenium is a super important trace mineral when it comes to detoxification, reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism and protecting our bodies against oxidative stress.

An article from Vega’s blog explains that Selenium’s antioxidant powers help slow down the aging process caused by sun damage, according to the National Institute of Health.

Depending on where they’re grown, Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium. Even one or two provide the recommended daily intake.

There are other foods that are also excellent sources of selenium, like tuna, shrimp, salmon, portobello and shiitake mushrooms and asparagus.

If none of those foods trip your trigger, you can find plenty of trusted selenium supplements to try.

4. Anthocyanins

Purple pigmented fruits contain anthocyanins, which the Medicine Hunter says may be nature’s mightiest of all protective compounds.

In addition to fighting many chronic and degenerative diseases, these nutrients also provide excellent natural SPF protection.

Berries are mother nature’s dessert. Enjoy your cranberries, blackberries, blueberries, acai and elderberries – especially when you’re planning a day trip to the beach.

Check out this article for a bunch of great cranberry recipes!

5. Curcumin

Turmeric Thursday

Most people these days have heard the buzz about turmeric root, but it’s not just another one of those health trends.

Turmeric, a root plant from the ginger family, contains a compound called curcumin, which benefits many systems of the human body.

Curcumin is helpful in reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, enhancing brain health and protecting the skin.

According to HealthWithFood.org, lab studies suggest turmeric can help protect the epidermal skin cells from damage caused by UVB radiation.

Turmeric is a main spice in Indian dishes like curry – MMM curry. You should also be able to find it on the spice isle of the grocery store. People add turmeric to so many dishes, whether it be soups, meat, seafood or pasta.

You can also try Terry Naturally by Europharma’s popular Curamin or Curamed, which so many people rave about.

But first, discover the difference between the two.

6. Carotenoids

Carotenoids, are what give red, yellow and orange fruits and veggies their color. They are also found in dark leafy greens.

Lycopene, a type of carotenoid found in tomatoes, especially ripe red heirloom tomatoes, is one of the most powerful skin-protecting nutrients. Cooked tomatoes are supposed to be even better.

It has even been proven in many studies that lycopene protects our skin from UV exposure and acts like a natural sunscreen.

avocadoMind Body Green points out that lycopene has been shown to reduce UV-induced free radicals by 40-50%. Another study says just five tablespoons of tomato paste with olive oil per day increased sunburn protection by 33 percent!

Kale is one of the best sources of another carotenoid called beta-carotene. Carrots usually take the credit for being the richest source, but kale has actually been proven better.

Either way, they both give us another powerful antioxidant nutrient that protects our skin from sun exposure.

Beta carotene coverts to retinol in the body, which is an active form of vitamin A that helps protect against free radical and UV damage.

Tomatoes, kale and carrots aren’t the only source of carotenoids. Watermelon, sweet potatoes, squash, grapefruit, peppers, papaya, mangoes, spinach and collard greens are also high in skin protective carotenoids.

Natural Healthy Tip – Eat healthy fats like avocado, saviseed or olive oil along with your vegetables. Adding good fats to the nutrients in veggies helps us absorb at least 200 percent more carotenoids.

7. Flavanols

Flavanols are yet another powerful antioxidant said to give us natural protection from UV damage. And guess what’s a super good source of this skin-protective nutrient?
Dark chocolate!
I don’t mean like like Hersey’s dark chocolate kisses. Conventional chocolate does not have the same effect because of its high temp method of processing. I mean the kind made with organic cocoa.

Maca Chocolate Bars, 24 Bars, VegaCocoa is actually a superfood with at least 712 compounds that studies have suggested can reduce our risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, bowel cancer, dementia, blood clots and premature births.

In addition to all of that, these studies demonstrate that regular consumption of chocolate rich in flavanols gives us significant photo-protection and can help protect human skin from harmful UV effects.

Have you heard of Maca chocolate made with organic 70% dark chocolate? It tastes amazing and is a nutrient powerhouse. For more about Maca, read this article.

10. Medium-Chain Triglycerides

I could go on and on about the amazing health benefits of Coconut Oil. Let’s just say it’s a huge long list, that just happens to include sun protection!

According to CoconutResearchCenter.org, coconut oil is a proven sunscreen that is still used by millions of people in the tropics as a main source of protection from sunburn and skin cancer.

Several studies have been done on all sorts of different oils to determine their sun protection factor (SPF). You’d be surprised that coconut oil proves to be the best sunscreen out of all the oils they studied. It has an SPF of about eight.

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Now that you’re familiar with nutrients and foods that work naturally in our bodies to provide some sun protection from the inside out, I want to leave you with a helpful way to remember and share some of those foods!

This summer add this picture to your fridge, Pin It or share away!

sun protection foods

I don’t know that drinking a cup of green tea with a handful of berries and a salad is good enough when you’re going to be in the sun all day. Just 20 minutes a day with 40 percent of your body exposed will help you soak up enough vitamin D. But, it’s still smart to give your skin some sort of natural barrier.

If you’re going to try coconut oil, you’ll need to apply it often and there are loads of recipes for how to make your own coconut oil sunscreen. Basically – most people are mixing coconut oil, Shea butter, sometimes various essential oils like lavender, and sometimes zinc oxide powder or beeswax crystals together.

Just knowing what you know about sun protective nutrients, you could get as creative as you want with your own homemade sunscreen!

If you’re not into DIY, here are two decent natural sunscreens, without titanium dioxide, that I like to use for my family.

You can click on one to see the ingredients and read more about it.

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