The intense ultraviolet rays of the sun can take a toll on your skin, but there are hundreds of compounds in plant-based foods that can help protect your skin from the sun. But that doesn’t mean you can load up on tomatoes and forget the sunscreen. New research from Australia published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that daily sunscreen use reduced skin aging over the 4.5 year study.
Plant-based diets provide a hefty supply of phytochemicals and antioxidants that help fend off oxidation and chronic inflammation, which may be at the root of chronic diseases as we age, as well as a factor in the outward signs of aging, like wrinkles. In fact, a study published by the Journal in the American College of Nutrition found that a high intake of plant-based foods, such as vegetables, legumes and olive oil is protective against wrinkles caused from sun exposure.
Here are my 5 favorite plant-powered (and water-based!) foods and beverages that may help you fight inflammation and changes to the skin’s cellular structure that’s associated with aging.
- Tomatoes provide the important antioxidant, lycopene – the plant compound that gives tomatoes their rich red hue and has been linked to protection of the skin from UV damage in several studies. When you cook tomatoes the lycopene becomes even more readily available to your body, so I strongly encourage you to stir cooked tomato products such as tomato sauce or canned tomatoes into pasta dishes, soups, chili, curry, or casseroles.
- Apples, plump and juicy, are filled with a class of phytochemicals called phenolic compounds that have strong antioxidant activity, which helps fight conditions associated with aging caused by the damaging effects of free radicals.
- Flax seeds and chia seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids definitely deserve to be placed into the healthy fat category. Not only do omega 3s – the fat found in flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and fatty fish – help to reduce the risk of heart disease, they also help to reduce inflammation and skin dryness.
- Dark chocolate. If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll be delighted to hear that growing research supports eating small portions of dark chocolate or cocoa products (about 1 ounce a day) for heart health, as well as fighting inflammation. Just make sure your chocolate contains at least 70 percent cocoa to reap the full benefits of this natural anti-inflammatory agent.
- Water should naturally be your first beverage choice when it comes to quenching your thirst during those hot days at the beach. Water is as vital to your health and beauty as any other nutrient in your diet. We need water to help distribute all of the wonderful phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in your diet.
This post is from Sharon Palmer, RD, author of The Plant-Powered Diet.