SPF Super Foods – You say tomato, we say sunscreen! Check out our top foods that help to protect your skin in the summer months.

TOMATOES

You say tomato, we say nature’s sunscreen. According to a recent study published in the Journal of British Dermatology, 20 healthy women, ages 21 to 47, who ate a quarter cup (or four tablespoons) of tomato paste in olive oil every day for three months were more protected against sunburn than those who consumed olive oil alone. Tomatoes and tomato-based products are a major source of an antioxidant called lycopene, which has been proven to provide long-term protection against UV-radiation-induced effects. Finally, a healthy excuse to indulge in a Bloody Mary!

CARROTS

How’s this for a dangling carrot: The rabbit food may not only help prevent sun damage, but might even reverse it. In a recent Korean study, 30 healthy women received a daily dose of 30 milligrams of beta carotene (about six carrots’ worth) for three months. As a result, the antioxidants both protected and repaired cells from photoaging. Sneak carrots into your diet by making healthy, low-cal fries. Cut peeled carrots into three-inch sticks. Place them on a baking sheet with two tablespoons of olive oil and some sea salt. Toss to coat evenly, then roast in a 400 degrees for 30 minutes (turning them at the 15-minute mark).

SWEET POTATOES

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes

Like carrots, sweet potatoes are also a major source of skin-protecting beta-carotene. Pick up a large one at your grocery store or farmer’s market and slice it into chip-like disks (don’t make them too thin or they’ll burn quickly). Brush the slices with olive oil seasoned with salt, pepper, and oregano or fresh cilantro. Grill until golden brown (about a minute-and-a-half per side). Voilà—you’ve got another perfect summer snack!

DEEP, DARK VEGGIES

You know a colorful plate is a healthy one. When you shop for your reds (tomatoes, radishes), greens (romaine lettuce, kale, parsley), purples (cabbage), yellow (peppers), and oranges (squash), make sure their hue is on the darker side. “The general rule of thumb is the deeper the color of the vegetable, the more nutritious it is and the more valuable the antioxidants, which help reverse free-radical damage in the body,” says Harold Lancer, M.D., a Beverly Hills–based dermatologist whose clientele includes Hollywood beauties Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian.

WATERMELON

Eating red can help keep you from turning red. Lycopene—the same good stuff found in tomatoes—can decrease your chance of looking like a lobster, says Brooke Joanna Benlifer, R.D., who specializes in nutrition for cancer prevention. Enjoy a super-light, sun-shielding summer salad with just four simple ingredients: cubed seedless watermelon, crumbled or diced feta, whole mint leaves, and extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

STRAWBERRIES, KIWIS & ORANGES

High in vitamin C, these three fruits are fully equipped to help block the development of cancer cells. Vitamin C is great for helping kill off free

radicals that your body produces in response to the cellular damaged caused by exposure to sunlight, says Tara Gidus, R.D., team dietitian for the Orlando

Magic. Cool fact: Kiwi is the king of fruits. Ounce for ounce, it packs more vitamin C than any other fruit.

NUTS & SEEDS

Top off a salad, yogurt, or smoothie with slivered almonds or sunflower seeds—both contain vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant that protects against sun damage. This vitamin has also proven to slow the aging of skin cells and help diminish the appearance of scars, says Sharon Richter, R.D., a medical advisor for HealthiNation.

APPLES

An apple a day can help keep skin cancer away—but only if you eat the scarlet peel! According to a 2007 study at Cornell University, the skin of Red Delicious apples is home to a dozen important chemical compounds called triterpenoids that have been proven to block or kill cancer cells in lab tests.

GREEN TEA

A glass of refreshing green tea won’t just calm you down; it will also help keep you cancer-free. Make sure it’s decaf. Caffeine is a dehydrating agent. When your body is thirsty, it tells the brain to suck fluid out of the skin. Your skin is a radiator that stores fluid, and if your internal core is fluid-depleted, the body will try to scavenger all the fluid it can from its surface.