The sun isn’t all bad.
Being out in the sun can have great benefits to both mind and body.
But sun has a bad reputation, for a good reason.
If you think about spending time in the sun without proper protection from UV rays, skin cancer is a real risk. However, spending time in the sun has certain healthy benefits you might did not know.
According to one study that involved almost 30,000 Swedish women, spending time in the sun can have a positive impact on decreasing the rates of cardiovascular diseases. Women who spent the most time in the sun outlived those who avoided sun rays.
Another study showed that if you get sunlight early in the day you can avoid increasing your body mass index, thus manage your weight in an easier way.
Sunlight can also help us adjust our body to a different time zone. If you are a globetrotter, the best way to get your body and mind in balance is to get up early in the morning and spend some time in the sun.
So, the sun isn’t all bad.
However, whether due to our poor judgments or irresponsibility, we tend to get only the bad instead of the benefits. But the sun isn’t the only one to blame; summer, in particular, is the riskiest season. There are so many opportunities to plan fun activities outdoors, at the beach or pool, or in the late afternoon in the garden or lake.
Besides sunscreen and proper clothes, there are other ways we can protect our skin from the negative effects.
Powerful UV-blockers are hiding right in your fridge
If you include certain food in your diet and develop good eating habits, you can, in fact, increase your sun tolerance.
However, this does not mean you can spend hours in the sun without protective creams, but rather that you can adjust your diet to include food that can bring another layer of protection to your body, making your organism stronger and less susceptible to burning.
Our diets and eating routines have a lot to do with how easily our skin burns.
Thus, getting enough key nutrients from the food you can increase the level of tolerance.
Let’s talk first about sunburns.
What is a sunburn?
A sunburn is a type of inflammation and skin’s system of defense against the extreme ultraviolet exposure.
According to Jeffrey M. Sobell, an assistant professor of dermatology and director of Photomedicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, this happens when we get sunburns:
“Although infrared radiation gives sunlight its warmth, it is not the heat of the sun that burns skin. A sunburn manifested by cutaneous redness, swelling and pain is an acute toxic reaction caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
The energy from ultraviolet radiation can damage molecules in the skin, most importantly DNA. One consequence of this is the synthesis of different proteins and enzymes. The effects of these proteins, notably prostaglandins and cytokines, lead to dilation of the cutaneous blood vessels and recruitment of inflammatory cells.
This, in turn, produces a sunburn’s characteristic redness, swelling, and pain. Once the signal of excessive radiation exposure is initiated, it generally takes four to six hours for these proteins to generate. Sunburn symptoms thus don’t appear until well after exposure.
The body does have mechanisms to repair damaged DNA after ultraviolet exposure. But as the frequency of sunlight exposure increases, so, too, does the probability that some of that damage will escape repairing. This mutated DNA may eventually lead to skin cancer.”
This explanation gives a proper understanding of what can happen if we do not protect our skin.
Why does my skin peel?
Our skin is composed of water and organic molecules. Only when molecules absorb UV radiation any chemical damage can happen.
The molecules that absorbs light are chromophore, which includes molecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins. When these molecules absorb the energy from UV radiation they are in an “excited” state, which means they are losing energy and a chemical change can occur.
The effect of a change is increased pigmentation of the skin.
The peeling of a thin layer of the skin on the damaged area usually starts after a few days or a week because our skin needs to get rid of the damaged cells to be able to heal properly.
● Damaged cells pose a great risk to the skin as they can become cancerous
The process of healing will bring a new layer of the skin, which will replace the dead skin. It takes usually from 4 to 7 days for a new skin layer to form. It’s a natural process but if you start to peel the skin on your own before the new layer is formed, you can cause bleeding or scars.
Although the recovery process is fairly fast, the greatest damage that occurs to the cells is related to the genetic material.
Even years after a sunburn, cells may carry damage that can result in certain skin related conditions and problems such as an aged appearance of skin or cancer.
Why do I get a sunburn and some people get a suntan?
Our skin is comprised of several types of cells. The cells involved in the tanning process are melanocytes, which produce melanin. The pigment gives our skin, hair, and eyes the specific color. People with dark skin have more melanin, and people with light skin have less.
● Melanin acts as a barrier against UV rays
People who have less melanin are more prone to sunburns.
When the skin is affected by the ultraviolet rays, it starts to produce more melanin to protect the skin, especially the deeper layers. Producing melanin causes the skin to change color. Dark-skinned people usually turn dark brown, while light-skinned people usually turn red.
Note: Even if your skin is naturally dark, which means it always tans and almost never burns, it does not mean that you do not need sunscreens.
● Your first choice of protection should always be moderation in exposure
What food can help you protect your skin even more?
It seems natural to increase the intake of food rich in nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties.
What should I eat?
Your diet should include:
The Carotenoids give fruits and vegetables their red, yellow and orange colors. But that’s not all, they also provide protection against excess light for the plants. Their protective characteristics can be used to help people increase protection from the harmful effects of UV lights.
The two well-known carotenoids are lycopene and beta carotene. Both have been shown to help reduce the sensitivity to harmful UV lights, providing protection to a certain extent.
Lycopene is a bright red antioxidant that occurs naturally in different food, thus it is easy to included it in your diet. Lycopene is known to help prevent heart disease and different types of cancer. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage.
Lycopene-rich food in your diet is an easy way to start eating for sun tolerance.
Note: Lycopene cannot be produced by the human body.
Beta-carotene is a pigment that our body converts into vitamin A. Although taking big doses of vitamin A can be toxic, our body only converts the amount it needs. We need Vitamin A for good vision, immune system, and skin.
As an antioxidant, the most important role of beta-carotene is to protect the body from free radicals that can damage our cells, which in turn can lead to a number of illnesses. It has been shown that regular intake of beta carotene supplement can protect the skin from sunburn, but beta carotene can also be applied topically.
Note: the more intense the color of the fruit or vegetable, the more beta-carotene the food has.
Omega-3s are a type of fat you do not want to cut back on. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are primarily found in fish. Seeds and nuts contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). Omega-3s are necessary for their protective characteristics. When it comes to sun protection, omega-3s can help decrease the severity of photo-aging, which is a sun-related skin damage. High intake of EPA can increase the skin’s tolerance to UV rays.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and thus has good protective characteristics. As one of the most researched vitamin in scientific circles, Vitamin E is shown to have many health benefits. We know that it can protect the skin from environmental pollution, prevent signs of premature aging and it has an excellent wound healing properties. We need Vitamin E because it can enhance the health-related properties of other vitamins.
Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that can help get rid of free radicals. Vitamin C offers more skin benefits as it can boost the production of collagen, which is the connective tissue that holds bones and muscles together. It can also improve absorption of iron and folic acid and increase the production of white blood cells and antibodies, strengthening the cell-protective surfaces. This is important because in this way Vitamin C helps prevent the entry of viruses.
Good saturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, have many health benefits. Saturated fats are used in different treatments to lower bad cholesterol and cut down on fat. These fats are good for strengthening the immune system, improving brain function and mood.
Catechins in tea provide protection from the quenching of free radicals, blocking UV rays. Moreover, catechins in green tea can help reduce harmful effects of UV radiation. Green tea, in particular, is one of the most powerful when it comes to reducing the risks of skin related health problems. It contains between 30 and 40% polyphenols and is abundant in catechins – epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)) that can also have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health and weight management. White and even black tea also contain EGCG.