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Vitamins & Spices That Protect Your Skin From the Sun

What we eat can provide a helping hand to the SPF in your sunscreen.

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Vitamins & Spices That Protect Your Skin From the Sun

Most of us know that great skin has little to do with genetics and a lot to do with something else—how well you protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. While most of us turn to the sunscreen bottle or SPF-fortified moisturizer, many are not aware that certain foods can protect our skin as well.

Here are some nutritional treasures that can protect skin from damage and promote a glowing, radiant complexion.

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Omega-3’s
Have you ever heard the words collagen and youthful skin in the same sentence and wondered what all the fuss was about? Collagen, found in all animals, is a protein that not only provides structural support throughout our bodies, but also aids in skin cell renewal. As we age, collagen in the skin begins to lose elasticity, which can lead to thinner, weaker skin—not something we look forward to. Diet plays a role in keeping collagen in tip-top shape, and one of the best sources of collagen-boosting foods are healthy fats called Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, meaning they may help decrease inflammation that can damage proteins such as—yep, you guessed it—collagen. This may lead to enhanced collagen function, which in turn can lead to firmer, more youthful-looking skin.

Top sources of Omega-3s include salmon, sardines, tuna and trout. Aim for three ounces three times a week to do the trick. Don’t like salmon or other fish? No problem—good plant sources of Omega-3s include flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and canola oil.

Antioxidant vitamins
We know to wear sunscreen to guard against the sun’s damaging UV rays, but evidence also suggests we can protect our skin with the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. This impressive trio has been shown to curb some of the damaging effects of free radicals—molecules that harm skin. And because vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, researchers continue to examine its anti-aging effects.

Get the biggest antioxidant bang for your buck with foods such as spinach, cantaloupe, red pepper and broccoli, which are good sources of both vitamins A and C. For a dose of vitamin E, go for sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, peanut butter, spinach and broccoli.

MORE: 8 Spices That Can Boost Your Health

Herbs and spices
It’s all too easy to focus on the benefits of certain foods and forget about the antioxidant powerhouses that season them. Just as certain compounds in food can reduce aging that occurs from oxidative stress, herbs and spices also have compounds that can provide that same benefit.

Cloves, commonly used in curries and pumpkin pie seasonings, contain polyphenolic compounds that have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. In fact, one study found cloves had the highest total antioxidant capacity compared with 25 other herbs and spices. Try cloves in combination with cinnamon and dried ginger and add to oatmeal, whole grain muffins or breads and baked apples.

Have mustard in your kitchen? You may be closer to one of the biggest anti-aging dynamos—turmeric—than you realize. A recent review of the potential skin benefits of curcumin (the active compound found in turmeric) found that it diminishes stress in skin cells, demonstrating its anti-aging capabilities. In addition, curcumin has potential anti-cancer and beneficial scar-diminishing properties.

Have fun mixing it up with these skin-protecting foods. The delicious combinations will keep your skin luminous, while boosting the health of the rest of your body!

QUIZ: What's Your Skin Cancer Risk?

Amy Gannon assisted with this article.

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