Delicious and Effective
I can't tell you how much skin-saving sun stuff I have stashed at home, at work, and in my car . . . hats, UV-proof sunglasses, lotions/sprays/lip balms with SPFs from 15 to infinity . . . and I still blow it sometimes. Forgetting my neck, or weeding for an hour when I only intended to pull out one offender, or . . . well, you know.
When that happens, the first thing I do is head for the fridge. Why? Because certain foods not only can boost your skin's defenses but may even help heal sunburns and undo deep-down damage. In particular, scientists have pinpointed 5 delicious inflammation-fighting, antioxidant-spiked foods. All, happily, delish. Sure, you still need a shotglass of sunscreen (at least) and your sexy shades, but these age-proofing edibles can pick up where your SPF leaves off . . . and maybe compensate when you blow it too.
After the, ugh, spinach/e-coli scare almost three years ago, this vital green has re-habbed itself. Good thing. People who eat three servings of spinach a week slash their risk of skin cancer by 55 percent! That's because spinach contains an amazing cocktail of nutrients (including folate; vitamins A, C, and E; and two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin) that boosts skin's resistance to sun damage.
Lycopene-loaded tomatoes reduce your risk of sunburn and skin cancer. And while it's tempting just to slice and eat these juicy fruits, the biggest lycopene bang comes from cooked tomatoes. So make room on your summer menu for whole-wheat pizza topped with lots of tomato sauce, room-temp pasta salads tossed with a fragrant blend of cooked tomatoes and basil.
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If bramble-like black raspberries are growing wild around your yard, don't complain if the pesky vines try to take over your garden. Instead, eat every dark-purple berry you can (freeze those you can't). While all berries are good cancer fighters, black raspberries are all-stars. They're so good at preventing the Big C on the cellular level (eat more, eat more!) that in the lab, scientists have also made them into a skin gel that takes the sting out of sunburn, slows the growth of squamous cell skin cancer, and squelches inflammation from UVB rays. Toss fresh or thawed frozen berries into everything from salads and smoothies, or just eat them right off the vine. You can't do your body anything but good.
Not that this fruit needs more good press, but those brilliant red (and flavanoid-rich) pomegranate seeds have proved their sun-strength in the lab: They too can shield skin cells from inflammation and UVB damage. Try topping grilled salmon with this super-easy pomegranate-avocado salsa. Just toss together lots of lime juice, onion, sliced avocado, and pomegranate seeds to taste. Spoon over salmon. Devour. (And if you're ambitious enough to extract your own seeds from the fruit, not a jar, make it much easier by breaking open the pomegranate beneath the water's surface in a deep bowl. The seeds will float free of the white pith.)
This is another food with an already-great health rep: Its happy effect on taste buds makes your brain release feel-good endorphins, plus it improves blood flow (good for your skin as well as the rest of you), and may be the only thing that gets many women through PMS. But can chocolate help your skin? You bet your dark-fudge sundae it can. It can take the red out of sunburn. It boasts more cancer-fighting chemicals than green tea and red wine. And in a study that thrilled chocolate lovers, women who drank a daily cup of cocoa made from 3 ounces of good dark chocolate (70% or more cacao) had thicker, moister, smoother skin that was also more resistant to sun damage . . . in just three months, thanks to chocolate's potent flavonols. Sweet.
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All of which is not to say that you shouldn't get any sun (or should go totally crazy on chocolate; it does have a few calories). Your body needs some sunlight — about 15 minutes a day — to make vitamin D, and to warm your psyche. Fine. Safely getting enough sun can make your RealAge as much as 1.7 years younger. But if you get more than enough, head for the greenmarket.