What to Eat to Prepare Your Skin for the Summer Sun

May 16, 2015 Updated: June 4, 2015

You can actually help your skin better protect itself from sunburns by eating real, whole foods and avoiding inflammatory foods like sugar and processed seed oil.

I have heard stories of people who find themselves much more resilient to the sun after switching to a more nutrient-dense diet full of vegetables, healthy fats, and clean protein sources like eggs and wild fish.

It’s certainly worth a shot, especially because it is so important to catch the valuable sun rays that turn into vitamin D in our body. In order to do so, we need to expose our skin to the sun without wearing sunscreen for at least 15 minutes every day. Of course, we still want to avoid burning, which is what damages the skin and may increase the risk for skin cancer down the road.

Eat More of These Foods

Smoked Mackerel (bojeped/iStock)
Smoked Mackerel (bojeped/iStock)

Fatty Fish 

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like wild salmon and sardines are great nutrients for our skin. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are important nutrients for protecting our skin against sun damage and cancer. These healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties too.

Coconut oil is also great for fueling you with energy and curbing cravings. (PicturePartners/iStock)

Coconut Oil 

This is a great source of medium-chain fatty acids and saturated fats that are easily absorbed and used by the body to form new skin and prevent damage from the sun. In general, a diet high in saturated fats and omega 3s and very low in processed seed oil that is high in omega-6 fatty acids has been shown to be protective against skin cancer.

Coconut oil is also great for fueling you with energy and curbing cravingshelping prevent you from snacking on less healthy foods.

Foods with high concentrations of carotenoids like watermelon, sweet potatoes, mango, and carrots, help protect your skin from the sun. (sofiaworld/iStock)

Antioxidant-Loaded Foods

Make sure to eat a variety of brightly colored vegetables and fruits, especially berries and dark leafy greens to feed your body with antioxidants to help fight against skin damage and sunburns.

Carotenoid found in a lot of plants is actually used by plants as sunscreen and can activate melanin in us humans. Melanin is the dark pigment that gives us a tan. Foods containing high concentrations of carotenoids include tomatoes (especially cooked), sweet potatoes, mango, carrots, and watermelon, to name a few.

Other great high-antioxidant foods include green tea, and the best news of all, dark chocolate contains four times as much phenols and catechins (two different kinds of antioxidants) as tea.

Berries are a great source of skin-nourishing antioxidants. (sofiaworld/iStock)

Vitamin D 

Optimizing your vitamin D levels year round makes your skin more prepared for sun exposure by producing melanin faster to better protect itself. Vitamin D also provides an important protection against skin cancer. If you don’t live somewhere that’s sunny all year around (hello, New York) it’s important to supplement with vitamin D3.

Katrine van Wyk graduated from Oslo University, the New School, and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as a holistic practitioner. This article was originally published on DrFrankLipman.com.