There is a lot of talk going around about Eating Seasonally. Which means eating what is grown in your area when it is at its peak, instead of eating the same things year-round and just flying them in from another part of the world when they are not in season locally.
Research is producing more and more evidence that eating this way is not just good for the environment, but also good for our health. The foods that are in season during the hot summer months also have many nutrients that protect our skin from the sun. So these foods grow when we benefit the most from them, and others grow when those nutrients are needed. Mother Nature is brilllliiaant!
Lycopene is a heavy hitter in the antioxidant world, and is especially potent in protecting our skin from sunburn and sun damage. Where do we find lots of lycopene? Tomatoes, watermelon, apricots, and guava are all great sources. And they are all symbols of juice-dripping-down-your-chin summer deliciousness.
Antioxidants like vitamin C, E and A are all great skin protectors. They are abundant in fruits like cantaloupe, watermelon, avocado, bell peppers, yellow peaches, nectarines, and basically all summer fruits and veggies. No guilt in adding that avocado to your plate – it protects your skin!
There are more than 10,000 antioxidants in the foods we eat, and two kinds that you may not have heard of can do wonders to protect your skin. One is flavanols (also called flavanoids) and they are abundant in tea, coffee and cocoa. While tea is not a seasonal food, a tall glass of iced tea sure tastes good when its hot. Iced coffee, too – but avoid the super-sugar filled, whipped cream-topped ones and stick to a non-fat iced mocha or vanilla latte. Excess sugar contributes to skin damage. Not what we want when most of our skin is exposed. An added bonus: citrus fruits like lemon and orange help us absorb more of these good guys from our tea – and they taste good. (In fact, many food combinations that taste good also contribute to increased nutrient absorption from the foods – a topic for another post.)
Polyphenols are the other and have been shown to slash the risk of skin cancer. Most herbs are loaded with polyphenols, and are likely to be taking over the garden this time of year. Oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil are especially delicious with summer vegetables and fish. Oh, and that fish is likely a good source of omega-3 fats, another skin-loving nutrient. Grass-fed beef has more omega-3 fats than corn or grain fed beef, so look for that when you are making your burgers and do your skin (and your heart) a favor.
Dark leafy greens like spinach, chard, romaine lettuce, and broccoli rabe are all excellent sources of many antioxidants and nutrients that protect skin, along with just about every body part we have. When it is just too hot to turn on the oven, a hearty salad is the ticket to satisfaction.
These foods are all good for you in so many ways. Raw or cooked, combined in any way that tastes good to you, they will be your friends and allies in the quest for health and beauty. Beauty is more than skin deep, and skin cancer is not beautiful on anyone.
So eat up all these delicious summer foods, slather on the sunscreen, slap on a hat, and love how great your skin looks all year long.