Foods that Protect Your Skin From the Summer Sun

Summer means fun in the sun, whether that includes a beach trip, days spent at the pool or a weekend hike in the mountains. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, so it's really important that you and your family protect yourselves during all your outdoor activities this summer.

Obviously, there's no substitute for using an SPF lotion that's appropriate for your skin -- liberally, every day (seriously... no skimping!). You can also replenish hydration at the end of the day with an ultra moisturizing lotion. But bet you didn't know that what you eat throughout the day can also do a lot to aid in protecting your skin from the sun. If you're looking for some ways to up your skin protection via nutrition, you're in luck. Here are some foods you can eat to assist your body in both protecting itself from the sun and in repairing any damage.

Kiwi

When people think about vitamin C, they typically think about citrus fruits, like oranges. Kiwis actually have more vitamin C, about 127 milligrams compared to an orange's 80 milligrams. This antioxidant has been shown to protect and treat UV damage to your skin by increasing its capacity for fibroblasts to repair any damage done by the sun. Kiwis are the perfect fruit for a summer dessert. Mix them with any of your other favorite summertime fruits and throw together a guilt-free refreshing treat. 

Tomatoes

These juicy summertime favorites should be next on your summertime shopping list. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to increases skin protection from the sun in several studies. Summer is the perfect time to pick up tomatoes at a local farmers market for optimal freshness. Toss them with fat-free feta cheese, olive oil and basil for a quick and light lunch.

Almonds

Almonds are packed with vitamin E, which contains antioxidants that repair sun damage. In fact, a quarter cup of almonds contains about 45 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin E, making them a perfect snack to bring to the beach. Choose pre-portioned snack-packs or almond butter packets to make sure you don't mindlessly overeat.

Salmon

You've heard over and over that salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but what you may not know is that omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects that may decrease sun sensitivity. Since sunburn and sun damage is essentially inflammation, a diet heavy in salmon might help both prevent and treat, as well as protect your skin from free-radical damage. If you're looking for an easy way to change up your summertime menu, salmon can be your new go-to dinner. It's versatile, easy to make, and is one of the healthiest (and lightest) proteins for an evening meal. Top a big green salad with a piece of steamed salmon with lots of lemon juice and herbs for an easy, but flavorful dinner.

Green Tea

A study funded by NIH and the National Cancer Institute found that "drinking green tea can reverse the effects of sun damage to the skin and prevent skin cancer." It does this by preventing UV radiation -- the induced suppression of the immune system, which is a risk factor for skin cancer. 

Cocoa

The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to fight skin cancer and shield skin from sun damage because they absorb UV light. But before you run out and grab the nearest candy bar, you should know that it's still possible to obtain the skin protecting benefits with a small portion (about three ounces). 

Chia Seeds 

Chia seeds are a superfood superstar for good reason. Not only do they provide lots of fiber, science is starting to realize that chia can be great for your skin, as well, since it's packed with antioxidants and omega-3s. Mix them with coconut milk and chill overnight in the fridge, then add fresh fruit for a summery take on your standard morning oatmeal or portable chia bar. 

Raspberries 

These delicious little berries contain a powerful combination of antioxidants and vitamin C to protect your skin from the sun and skin cancer. They are also packed with fiber (eight grams per cup) and are super easy to add into your daily snacks. Toss some into your yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal for refreshing natural sweetness. I like to spread organic peanut or almond butter onto Ezekiel toast and add fresh raspberries on top instead of jelly. 

Flax

If you haven't tried flax yet, this summer is the time to do it. The National Institute of Health says that flaxseed oil, in particular, can protect your skin against UV rays and keep your skin moisturized so it won't dry out. Best of all, you don't even have to cook this seed, and you shouldn't since cooking breaks down the nutrients. 

Protect your skin for years to come from the outside AND the inside by eating these foods all summer long!

Heather Bauer

Heather Bauer is a nationally recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur.

She brings her fresh and inspiring approach to diet to prime time spots on Good Morning America, CNN, CBS, The Talk, Access Hollywood Live and The Tyra Banks Show. And she's featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and People Magazine. 

Heather is the author of two best-selling nutrition and diet books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil, and has regular columns on The Huffington Post and USNews where she writes about the latest trends.

She is the founder of Bestowed, the leading product discovery platform for health-conscious consumers, and has an active nutrition counseling practice in NYC, which she founded in 2001.

Heather is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a New York State Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN). She graduated from The University of Wisconsin with honors and is a member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and the New York State Dietetic Association (NYSDA).