Protect yourself with natural sunscreen

Beat the heat

Nothing is better on a hot July day than a garden-fresh tomato sandwich or a sweet, refreshing slice of watermelon. Now, researchers are promoting the consumption of these foods as a means to protect ourselves from sun damage

Studies in the United States and Britain conducted on both animals and humans have reached the same conclusion that there is a secret ingredient in certain foods that can reduce skin damage and the aging effects of harmful sun rays. That ingredient is a super antioxidant known as lycopene. It is the red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, red oranges, and paprika.

Tomatoes are very high in lycopene, but watermelons have 40 percent more of the age-defying chemical. Other foods, such as broccoli, green leafy vegetables, bran, legumes, orange zest, green tea, pomegranate, and omega-3 fish, contain other antioxidants that help protect the body against the sun’s radiation and reduce inflammation caused by the sun. However, watermelon and tomatoes are the stand-outs.

On the flip side, there are foods that can make your system more susceptible to sun-sensitivity. Foods not to take on a picnic include carrots, celery, parsley, and limes. Drinking margaritas beside the pool while munching on celery and carrot sticks would definitely be a bad idea.

As a precautionary note, please don’t think that antioxidant foods can replace your sunscreen. Sun damage should not be taken lightly because it can lead to skin cancers. Lycopene foods should be thought of as added protection, not as cure-alls.

Dr. Dutton is a regional agent with
Alabama Cooperative Extension System.