by Executive Chef Stef
Summer’s not over yet, so grab some sunblock, a straw hat and your protective clothing, then also think about the food you eat to help guard against skin cancer.
That’s my advice, as many common foods can help protect skin against damage caused by normal exposure to the sun. My recommendation for healthy skin is definitely to use the sunscreen. But in addition, eat a healthful, well-balanced diet so that you get more of the nutrients you need.
When we eat, we’re not only nourishing the inside of our bodies, but also keeping our skin healthy.
In addition to helping prevent skin cancer, good nutrition can help reduce wrinkles later in life. When the body gets the nutrients it needs, it is better able to replenish damaged skin and other cells.
The sun is the biggest culprit for causing skin damage. Studies using special photography have shown skin damage from the sun in children as young as 4 years old. Freckles and liver spots, for example, can be a sign of sun damage. But a healthy diet can partially offset the effects of being out in the sun, because the food you eat on a regular basis influences the amount of damage the sun has on the skin.
There’s a variety of ways that nutrients work to protect skin. Some foods have antioxidants – such as vitamins A, E and C; and selenium – that help skin repair damaged cells. Some of the best food sources for this include fruits and vegetables, whole-grain products, nuts, seeds, legumes and green tea.
The antioxidants in foods are good for the skin because when oxygen is loose – that is, when the molecule is not attached to anything – it causes damage to cells. Aging of the skin is speeded up in the presence of these molecules. Also, cancer cells can form as a result of the oxidation process. Thus, we need to nourish the body’s cells with antioxidants.
If you have lots of antioxidants in your diet, they reduce cell damage, and the cell is better able to repair itself and be healthy.
Some foods contain nucleic acids called RNA, which is a nutrient that is important, but not crucial for daily intake. Nucleic acids help restore a cell’s energy and help replenish the wear and tear that happens to a cell.
Some of the best foods for nucleic acids are tuna, salmon, cod, shellfish, liver, plus other meats, poultry, lentils and beans. Eating fatty fish, including salmon, is especially recommended because it contributes beneficial fatty acids to the diet that help protect the skin from sun damage.
It is also important to drink plenty of fluids: water, juices, milk, soups and more. When skin is dehydrated, it loses much of its ability to protect us from the environment.
Nutrition studies have supported the importance of healthful eating practices in protecting skin. Accordingly, one study looked at people of varying ethnic backgrounds. Those who had less wrinkling of skin later in life had a diet high in vegetables, olive oil, legumes and fish; and had eaten less butter, margarine, milk products and sugary foods.
In general, we know that a healthy body relies on good nutrition and good exercise habits. Eating according to the Food Guide Pyramid is an excellent way to ensure a balanced diet. The skin is one of the largest organs in our body. In order to keep our skin healthy, we need to take in the nutrients that will help us do that.