These foods help skin fight sun damage

By Angela Shelf Medearis

Tomatoes and cucumbers with oil (Credit: Depositphotos)

As the temperature continues to climb, and the sun shines hotter, brighter and longer, it’s important to consider all of the ways that you can protect your skin. No matter what race you may be, if exposed for a long enough period of time, your skin is susceptible to sun damage. It’s important to wear protective clothing and apply the right sunscreen for your skin type with broad-spectrum ingredients and multi-spectrum protection for both UVB and UVA rays. There’s also a way to protect your skin from the inside by eating fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts that provide protection for your skin.

The late Dr. Paul Talalay, noted professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins, wrote that eating your vegetables “isn’t a substitute for sunscreen, but the protection you get won’t wash off in the pool.”

A sunburn is a type of inflammation, and diet has a tremendous impact on inflammation in the body. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is one way to protect your skin from the inside. An anti-inflammatory diet also means avoiding certain foods, like processed foods and sugar.

While chronic UV exposure is the most predictive factor for skin diseases, studies have found that inflammation, oxidative stress and DNA damage all play an important role in determining how extensive the damage from the sun can be.

Here are some foods that will help your skin fight sun damage and improve your health year-around:

Olive oil — High in vitamin E and polyphenols, a daily dose of unheated, cold-pressed olive oil can help protect your skin.

Basil — This herb contains the antioxidant zeaxanthin that helps filter UV light from the retina, protecting your eyes.

Tomatoes — Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene and are at their flavorful best in the summer. Studies have shown that lycopene decreases the risk of skin cancer and can increase your skin’s protection from the sun by 33 percent!

Broccoli and apples — This vegetable and fruit have the highest concentration of polyphenols. Broccoli also helps fight inflammation and contains a sulphorane, a compound that helps to protect skin against UV light. An apple a day is a delicious way to protect your skin.

Spinach — This power-packed green vegetable is loaded with vitamin E, anti-inflammatory compounds, omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid, and also is high in B-vitamins.

Salmon and walnuts — Both are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties that help to protect your heart and your skin. These anti-inflammatory properties help fight off free radicals in the body, which can occur as a result of overexposure to UV rays. A diet rich in omega-3 could help cut your melanoma risk in half!

Carrots and sweet potatoes — Orange-colored vegetables contain carotenoids, nutrients that build up on the skin and help protect it from sun damage.

Tea and coffee — Both contain polyphenol, plant-based compounds that help regulate inflammation, oxidative stress and the immune system. Research shows that drinking at least one cup of white, black or green tea per day can lower the risk of certain types of skin cancer by 30 percent.

Dark chocolate — Eating dark chocolate with at least 60 percent to 70 percent cocoa can make the skin 25 percent less sensitive to the sun.

This recipe for Summertime Spinach, Tomato and Carrot Salad With Basil Olive Oil Dressing is packed with the anti-inflammatory, skin-protecting ingredients you need to safeguard your skin from the inside out!



1 cup walnut halves

1 bunch of spinach (1 pound)

15 to 20 cherry tomatoes (about 1 pound)

1 large carrot, sliced into coins

1 large cucumber, diced

1 large apple, cored and diced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts to the hot, dry pan, only toasting as many walnuts as fit in the pan in a single layer. Cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently until the walnuts start to brown and they smell toasted, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the walnuts to a plate or baking sheet where they can stay in a single layer to help them cool evenly (and finish toasting from their residual heat) and get nice and crunchy.
  3. Toss the walnuts and all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Drizzle the Basil Olive Oil Dressing over the salad, toss to combine and serve immediately. Serves 6.


1/2 cup basil leaves, packed

1 clove garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sugar or honey

1/3 cup olive oil

Put all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender or food processor and blend on high until the ingredients are well-combined. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream, until the mixture thickens. Drizzle over salad. Makes about 1 1/3 cups dressing.


Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.


© 2020 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis