Foods That Can Prevent a Sunburn

Headed to the beach? These foods can literally save your skin.

Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
2-minute read
Episode #1

It's summertime--here in the northern hemisphere anyway--a season when many of us spend a lot more time outdoors in the sun. (For all of you listening in the southern hemisphere, where it's wintertime, tuck this tip away for next January!)

Unless you are living under a rock, in which case you don't need to worry too much about sun damage, you probably know that unprotected sun exposure can age your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. So, if you are going to be out in the sun for more than a few minutes, it's probably a good idea to apply sunscreen, which helps shield your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. But even with sunscreen on, you're likely to be somewhat "sun-kissed" after a summer day at the beach or in the garden. Scientists have a much less attractive word for that healthy glow. They call it "erythema" and its a sign that your skin has suffered radiation damage.

See also: 10 All-Natural Sunburn Remedies 

Radiation is Forever

Just like diamonds, Elvis, and your Facebook profile, radiation is forever. You can't undo skin damage ... or can you?

It turns out that certain nutrients, such as the antioxidant vitamins C and E, have the ability to both prevent and repair cellular damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. Eating foods that are high in these vitamins on a day that you'll be out in the sun can actually prevent or lessen the severity of a sunburn! You get the best protection if you have both of these vitamins in your system at the same time--but they are hardly ever found in the same foods. You get vitamin C from tomatoes, red and green peppers, melons, citrus fruit, and broccoli. Vitamin E, on the other hand, is found in avocados, almonds, and sunflower seeds. You can get a more complete list of foods high in C, E, or any other nutrient, at NutritionData.com.

Skin-Saving Recipes

Fortunately, it's not too hard to imagine delicious ways to combine foods high in vitamin C with foods high in vitamin E. A spinach salad topped with orange sections and toasted sunflower seeds would fit the bill perfectly. Or, you could tuck an orange and some mixed nuts into your beach bag. Pack some red pepper strips and guacamole into the cooler. Or, how about my personal favorite: Asian broccoli salad with toasted almonds? All of these would be a great way to fortify your skin against damage caused by UV rays. You'll find a link to my own recipe for Asian Broccoli Salad at nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com.

So remember, protect that gorgeous skin by eating foods high in vitamin C and E before, during, and even after your time in the sun. And, of course, be sure to wear your sunscreen!

These tips are provided for your information and entertainment and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.

This is Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, with your quick and dirty tips for eating well and feeling fabulous. If you have a nutrition question for me, send an email to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com.

Asian broccoli salad with slivered almonds

Foods high in vitamin C

Foods high in vitamin E