9 Foods to Eat to Protect Your Skin From the Sun—Because What Can’t Antioxidants Do?

Keep calm and carry a big bottle of SPF…plus every one of these delicious ideas.

We're all well-aware by now that applying sunscreen and wearing a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing are the most important measures we can take in an effort to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun. But did you know that diet is another highly effective (and necessary!) way we can we prevent and minimize skin damage from the sun?

“Consuming foods rich in antioxidants can help fend off the damaging effects of UV rays by arming our cells with the power to either prevent damage, remove or repair damaged cells,” says Amy Haynes, a Registered Dietitian with Salata Salad Kitchen and expert in the science of nutrition and its application in food preparation.

Amy helped us round up the bet foods that you can eat to keep your skin protected from the harmful effects of sunshine. Her top tip? Try to consistently consume antioxidant-rich foods every day. Specific antioxidants we need and the foods in which they are found include…


What can't watermelon do? It's one of the most water-rich foods which makes it an excellent choice for keeping your skin (and body) well-hydrated. But watermelon is also rich in lycopene, found in red pigmented fruits and vegetables, which helps play a role in preventing the development of sunburn. Try one of these delicious watermelon recipes for a sweet serving of lycopene.


Carrots are chock-full of vitamin A, which offers the specific skin-protective benefit of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene's the antioxidant family of carotenoids, which absorb various wavelengths of UV light from the sun, therefore protecting cells from damage.


Broccoli packs a heavy hit of Vitamin C, which has the ability to stabilize free radicals and cancel their ability to perpetuate cellular and tissue damage. Free radicals are molecules containing one or more unpaired electron, making them highly unstable, highly reactive and potentially damaging to other healthy molecules and cells. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, have extra electrons to spare and are able to neutralize free radical activity by donating needed electrons to circulating free radicals, thereby shielding healthy molecules from being attacked. Vitamin C is also important for maintaining skin elasticity due to its crucial role in collagen production. Looking for other ingredients to up your vitamin C intake? Try green bell peppers, snow peas, strawberries, blueberries, or Mandarin oranges.


Berries—like strawberries and raspberries—are packed with polyphenols, which can help slow the effect of aging from sun exposure and greatly reduce skin cancer risk. Load up on red grapes and pomegranates for even more of polyphenols.


It's the darling of the wellness world for a reason—kale's packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and lutein, all of which contribute to sun protection. Lutein in particular (found in significant amounts in kale, as well as spinach and cilantro), can help decrease the formation of sunburn.

Olive Oil

As if we needed another reason to drizzle this magic elixir over every dish: eat olive oil for the vitamin E. Vitamin E is known for its ability to nullify the damaging effects of free radicals that come from extended exposure from sunlight. Other vitamin E-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, cabbage, corn, almonds, and walnuts.


Salmon's rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation that results from overexposure to sunlight. Try adding some grilled salmon to a summer salad or follow one of these easy salmon recipes.


Omega-3s! Vitamin E! Lutein! Phytochemicals! Not only are avocados great for skincare—they're a superstar when it comes to eye protection, too.


Another rich resource of lycopene, tomatoes are a super smart way to protect your skin from oxidative damage caused by the sun's rays. They're also a delicious source of vitamin A and vitamin C.

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