Nutrition for natural sun protection: which foods help?

Nutrition can play an important role in protecting the skin from the dangers of the sun, now that the sunny season has begun and we can enjoy the sun to the fullest again. Overexposure to the sun can lead to skin damage and even skin cancer, so it is important to be aware of the risks. Fortunately, there are several foods that can help protect the skin from the sun’s harmful effects. In this blog, we will discuss what foods these are and what substances are involved.

First, it is important to understand how the sun damages the skin. The sun’s rays contain ultraviolet (UV) light, which can cause damage to skin cells. UV light can cause inflammation, skin aging and even DNA damage, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Fortunately, there are nutrients that can help protect the skin from this damage. More on Skin cancer diagnosis, now what?



Tomatoes are an important source of lycopene. By eating tomatoes regularly, you can increase the amount of lycopene in your body, contributing to healthy skin. Moreover, lycopene is more available to the body when tomatoes are cooked because the heat breaks down the cell walls of the tomato, releasing the lycopene. Therefore, consuming tomato sauce, tomato puree or concentrated tomato products, for example, may be useful to maximize the benefits of lycopene.

Lycopene is a reddish pigment found in certain red or orange fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes. It is a carotenoid and a powerful antioxidant that can protect the skin from damage caused by UV radiation and other forms of oxidative stress. In fact, UV radiation can cause damage to skin cells and the DNA within them, which can result in aging skin and an increased risk of skin cancer.

Lycopene also helps the skin retain moisture, making it look healthy and hydrated. Research shows that lycopene can help maintain the skin barrier and contribute to healthy skin structure. In addition, it also has anti-inflammatory properties that can protect the skin from damage and inflammation.

Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in promoting skin health. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation in the body, including inflammation in the skin that can be caused by exposure to UV radiation.

However, it is important to note that some types of fish contain higher levels of mercury than others, and eating too many fish with high levels of mercury can be harmful to health. Therefore, it is recommended to eat no more than 2-3 servings of oily fish per week and to choose fish species with lower mercury content, such as salmon and sardines. It is also important to note that eating fish is not the only way to get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, chia seeds and walnuts.

Green tea is a tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and is native to China. It contains many polyphenols, which are a group of natural compounds known for their antioxidant properties. Polyphenols protect the skin from UV damage by neutralizing free radicals, which can lead to DNA damage and skin aging. Additionally, polyphenols can reduce inflammation in the skin and improve blood circulation, resulting in healthier-looking skin.

One of the main polyphenols in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can help protect the skin from UV damage. It can also help reduce wrinkles, improve skin texture and reduce acne. In addition, green tea can help the skin retain moisture, which leaves the skin looking healthy and hydrated. So drinking green tea is a great way to protect the skin from UV damage and inflammation, as well as keep the skin looking healthy and hydrated.

Dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, contain several nutrients that contribute to skin health and reduced risk of skin cancer. They are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. These antioxidants work together to neutralize free radical damage caused by exposure to UV radiation and other environmental factors.

Another important ingredient in dark leafy vegetables is chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color. Chlorophyll has an anti-inflammatory effect and can help skin recover after sun exposure. In addition, dark leafy vegetables also contain vitamin K, which can help reduce swelling and redness of the skin.

Nuts and seeds contain several types of vitamin E, including tocopherols and tocotrienols. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant capable of neutralizing free radicals formed as a result of exposure to UV radiation and environmental pollution. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that contain an unpaired electron and are therefore reactive with other molecules in the body, including those in skin cells. This can lead to oxidative stress and damage to skin cells, contributing to skin aging and increased risk of skin cancer.

Vitamin E helps protect the skin from these harmful effects by acting as a powerful antioxidant and preventing or reducing the formation of free radicals. In addition, vitamin E can also help keep skin hydrated by retaining moisture and strengthening the skin barrier. This allows the skin to look healthy, radiant and youthful. Some examples of nuts and seeds rich in vitamin E are almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Regular consumption of these nuts and seeds can help maintain healthy skin and protect against skin aging and UV damage.

Blueberries are small, round berries belonging to the blueberry family. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients, including anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a class of antioxidants responsible for the deep blue color of berries and provide a number of skin health benefits. One of the main benefits of blueberries for the skin is their ability to protect against UV damage.

UV radiation can create free radicals in the skin, which cause oxidative stress and can cause damage to the DNA of skin cells. This can lead to sunburn, premature aging of the skin and an increased risk of skin cancer. Anthocyanins in blueberries can protect the skin from UV damage through their antioxidant properties. They can neutralize free radicals and reduce the oxidative stress caused by UV radiation. In addition, anthocyanins can protect skin cells from DNA damage, keeping skin healthy and looking youthful.

Legumes: Such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, are rich in antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients that may help reduce the risk of melanoma. They can reduce inflammation and promote overall skin health.

Olive oil: This is known for its health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. Regularly including olive oil in your diet can help maintain healthy skin and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Eggs: Are a good source of several nutrients, including vitamin D. This vitamin plays a role in maintaining healthy skin cells and may protect against the harmful effects of UV radiation, a known risk factor for melanoma.

Onions and garlic: Contain sulfur compounds and antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. They can help maintain healthy skin and reduce the effects of free radicals, which contribute to skin damage.

Fast food – enjoy but in moderation

It is also important to know which foods are better to avoid if you want to protect your skin from the sun. For example, excessive intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates and also foods rich in trans fats and saturated fats such as fast foods, fried foods and processed snacks can contribute to skin aging and inflammatory reactions.


Sugar and refined carbohydrates in your diet can lead to increased insulin production in the body. Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to remove glucose (sugar) from the blood and store it in cells for energy. When too much sugar or refined carbohydrates are consumed, the body can produce too much insulin, increasing levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). This can lead to inflammatory reactions in the body.

Inflammation in the body can lead to accelerated breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin, leading to skin aging, including wrinkles and fine lines. Moreover, chronic inflammation can also contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer.

These harmful effects of sugar and refined carbohydrates are compounded by the fact that insulin can also stimulate sebum production in the skin, clogging pores and causing inflammation. Therefore, it is important to limit the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates to maintain healthy skin and reduce the risk of skin aging and skin cancer.

Trans fats and saturated fats, which are mainly present in fast foods, fried foods and processed snacks, can also contribute to skin aging and inflammation. These fats cause oxidative stress in the body, which can lead to accelerated breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin. This can result in sagging skin, wrinkles and fine lines. In addition, trans fats can cause inflammatory reactions and reduce blood flow to the skin, leaving the skin looking dull and unhealthy.

Yes, certain foods contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that can help protect the skin from UV rays. Nutrients such as beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C and E, and omega-3 fatty acids are known for their sun-protective properties.

These nutrients work by strengthening the skin barrier, reducing inflammation, and neutralizing harmful free radicals produced by UV rays. As a result, they can help reduce sun damage such as sunburn and premature aging.

No, while a healthy diet can help improve skin protection against the sun, relying entirely on diet for sun protection is not enough. It is important to also take other sun protection measures, such as wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and avoiding the sun during peak hours.

Supplements can be useful to make up for deficiencies, but they should not be seen as a replacement for a healthy diet. Consuming foods in their natural form provides a complex of nutrients and antioxidants that work synergistically. It is best to get nutrients through diet for the most natural and effective sun protection.

In other words

Thus, it is advisable to choose foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, to protect the skin from sun damage and skin aging. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and nuts, can also contribute to healthy skin and sun protection.

It is important to note that nutrition is not a substitute for proper sun protection. Wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen with a high SPF remains the best way to protect the skin from harmful UV radiation. But eating healthy foods can certainly contribute to healthy and glowing skin.

While you are here

While we can all enjoy the warmth of the sun and the vitamin D it produces, overexposure to the sun can cause serious damage to our skin. However, skin damage, such as pigmentation, fine lines, burst blood vessels and actinic keratosis (a precursor to skin cancer), does not mean that all hope is lost. While complete skin repair is not possible, there are some tips you can follow to prevent further damage and minimize the damage. More about sun-damaged skin and how to repair it?

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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