Nutritious Foods That Offer Sun Protection
By Krishna Dholakia, MS, RD, CDE, CDN
Summer is here. For many of us that means spending more time outside. Increased sun exposure has its pros and cons. A sunny day can improve our mood, and increase vitamin D levels. But too much sun exposure can also increase the risk of skin cancer, and promote age spots and wrinkles.
That is why it is so important to protect ourselves. In addition to applying SPF lotion, wearing hats, UV protected sunglasses and clothing, certain foods may help lessen the skin damage we experience from too much sun exposure. According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research,* nutrients such as vitamin C and E, and omega 3’s may help reduce cellular damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. These nutrients can be found by eating a well-balanced, healthy diet.
Here are some recommendations on how to incorporate foods rich in these nutrients to your summer menu:
- Foods rich in vitamin C: Oranges, kiwi, melons, berries, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers. If you are spending time by the pool or the beach, bring a vitamin C-rich fruit salad with a side of almonds, which are rich in vitamin E, as a healthy snack.
- Foods rich in vitamin E: Almonds, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, sunflower seeds, and butternut squash. For your next outdoor lunch, prepare a refreshing vitamin E-rich spinach and avocado salad, and top it off with pear, sunflower seeds, and extra virgin olive oil.
- Foods rich in Omega-3s: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines, as well as seeds such as flax, and chia. Omega-3 is a healthy fat that reduces inflammation in the body, which can be increased by sun damage. So add grilled salmon to your next outdoor dinner, and pair it with a refreshing salad with foods rich in vitamins C and E, and for dessert, a bowl of fresh berries to help keep you cool, and healthy.
The summer is also a great time to explore your local farmer’s market. Take a trip and find seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables that are naturally rich in sun-protecting nutrients. With enhanced nutrition and daily sun protection, we can more safely enjoy the sunny days of summer.
Krishna Dholakia serves as the Senior Health Education Specialist in the Education & Wellness department at CPG. She is a registered dietitian and a 500-hour certified yoga instructor.
For more ways to help protect yourself this summer, check out Cigna’s VitaMin — vital health information in a minute!
Cigna also offers wellness seminars without having to leave the comfort of your home. View the webinar schedule and register here.