Foods that protect the skin from the sun

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Healthy eating is one of the main objectives in the most advanced societies since it allows people to enjoy life in addition to longevity in optimized conditions.

With the sunscreen, it’s not enough. There is more and more and new evidence of the role that certain nutrients play in the task -not easy- of strengthening the skin’s natural defenses Front of solar radiation and, above all, in the repair of damage at the cellular level that it may produce. It is what is colloquially known as the SPF diet (sun protection factor). And, as Federico Feltes, a dermatologist from Dorsia Clinics, “In addition to tanning, ultraviolet rays (especially their excess) produce an accumulation of free radicals on the skin, which can damage epithelial cells. Against this effect, there are basically two types of measures to protect ourselves: limiting sun exposure (and, of course, using photoprotection) and increasing our reserves of antioxidants”.

Along the same lines, the pharmacist Inmaculada Cantella, an expert in nutrition and director of Cosmeceutical Center, explains that in times of solar overexposure it is essential to follow a diet focused on increase the natural photoprotection of the skin, “And this is achieved by incorporating those foods that help regulate the production of melanin. It should be taken into account that skin pigmentation acts as a photoprotective agent since melanin fulfills the function of absorbing UV radiationHence the importance of stimulating its synthesis by the melanocytes (cells responsible for producing it) and favoring its correct distribution at the epidermal level (thus ensuring a uniform tan) ”.

On the beach, cream; on the plate, antioxidants

Experts agree that the best allies to achieve all these effects are a series of nutrients that have demonstrated a powerful protective capacity against oxidative damage produced by the sun “and that is basically those rich in antioxidants, most of the plant origin: fruits and vegetables in general. And more specifically, those that contribute in significant amounts vitamins C Y AND and provitamins like beta carotenes and flavonoids “, says Dr. Feltes, who offers some clues as to where these nutrients are abundant in our pantry:” Among the foods richest in vitamin C are citrus fruits, and especially the Kiwi (It has one of the maximum contributions of this vitamin). As for vitamin E, its most important sources are hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and the oils derived from all of them. They are also rich in this vitamin, although to a lesser extent, peanuts, avocado, salmon, cod, fish roe, and octopus and other seafood”.

To these two nutrients, Immaculate Canterla adds a third, which is also an important antioxidant: coenzyme Q10. “This substance, naturally present in the skin, is the first antioxidant to break down at the skin level due to the action of the sun, so it must be ‘replenished’ through food. It is found in fish, shellfish, spinach, and walnuts. Its consumption provides the dermis with a basic supplement to reinforce natural photoprotection”.

Regarding the user manual of these nutrients, Federico Feltes points out that antioxidants must be present in the diet from before starting the period of sun exposure, in order to obtain the maximum benefit from them, which is not limited to achieving a healthy tan or slowing down photoaging, “but they are also important for preventing sunburn and avoid the reactions of skin hypersensitivity such as solar urticaria or polymorphic light eruption (a rash that appears in people with sensitivity to sunlight), ”says Feltes.

The anti-UV type menu

For her part, Lina Robles, nutritionist at the Sanitas La Zarzuela University Hospital, specifies which are, within this group of antioxidants/photoprotection, the most recommended foods, especially at this time of year, and explains the action carried out by each one of them in particular:

  • “Vegetables and orange and yellow fruits They stimulate the production of melanin and, therefore, help to achieve a healthier and more uniform tan. This is the case, for example, of peach, the medlar, the pumpkin, the carrot, and the tomato; and also of the green leafy vegetables like chard and spinach, lettuce and broccoli ”.

  • As for vitamin E, it is present in the olive oil and in the nuts, mainly. “This vitamin reduces the damage caused by free radicals, and also helps to keep the skin luminous and elastic.”

  • He blue Fish is another highly recommended food since it has a high content of fatty acids that help prolong the tan and that, in addition, hydrate the skin in depth. “Examples of these fish are the anchovy, anchovy, the sardine, swordfish, and salmon ”.

  • “Besides, you have to drink at least one and a half liters of water a day, to avoid dehydration and assure the skin the adequate water level ”, adds Dr. Robles.

Therefore, the pro-tan dietary formula healthy could be summarized in vegetables (fruits and vegetables), oily fish, nuts, and olive oil. But is there any food or nutritional style that has the opposite effect, that is to say, that it interferes in the natural defense of the skin against the sun? Dr. Feltes answers this question by explaining that at this time of year, when the skin is very exposed to the sun, all foods that do not provide antioxidants are occupying a place in our diet that would correspond to foods with special protective potential in this sense, “So although we cannot speak of clearly harmful foods, we could say that all calories empty (that is, junk food, starches, etc.) will contribute less – or contribute nothing – to photoprotection, which is an added reason to eliminate them from the diet ”.

Beta carotene supplements; A good option?

As Federico Feltes comments, it is usual that to prolong the tan or accelerate its appearance, beta-carotene intake is promoted, and most people do it in the form of supplements, “Although we must not forget that they are naturally present in vegetables, particularly those that are red, orange or yellow, and in other sources, such as, for example, the spinach. They are a good choice since they are antioxidant substances, but in reality, the reason for their popularity lies largely in the fact that a large intake of carotenes can color the skin in the absence of sun tanning, of hence there is a summing effect in that double benefit that they provide: skin color and photoprotection, which makes them a very attractive option ”.

Regarding beta-carotene supplements, framed in the category of oral nutricosmetics, Dr. Feltes recommends them as support to strengthen defense against oxidative damage produced by the sun: “There are multiple food supplements on the market, generally in capsule format, containing ingredients such as Polypodium leucotomos, vitamins C and E, lycopene and lutein, among others.”

Lina Robles is of the same opinion, who considers them a good complement especially in those cases in which the diets are insufficient due to stress, age, etc. “These products are of natural origin, and their active principles act on the skin mainly improving its appearance. They are not miraculous but combined with a balanced diet, they can be quite effective. “

Of course: there is a “collateral damage” of beta carotenes (both natural but especially those consumed in the form of supplements) that many people experience in “their own skin”: an orange color (sometimes exaggerated and unnatural), which is especially noticeable in areas such as the palms of the hands. Is it possible then go of beta carotenes? “Yes, and this gives rise to a situation called carotenemia, which consists of an alteration of the pigmentation of the skin produced by an excess of these nutrients in the body “, confirms Dr. Robles, who also explains that the effects of this excess are purely aesthetic,” and therefore are not worrisome, since they disappear as soon as the diet is corrected and, therefore, the consumption of these foods or supplements is readjusted ”.

“Repair” diets to prevent further damage

The latest evidence of the relationship between diet and skin protection against the negative effects of solar radiation has come from the results of an investigation carried out by experts from Ciberobn and the University of Milan, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Specifically, the authors analyzed the role of certain types of diet in the prevention of basal cell carcinoma, the kind of skin cancer more frequent that usually develops in the areas of the body most exposed to the sun. The nearly 22,500 participants in the study (spanning 17 years from 1999 to 2016) were people with a family history of skin cancer and a long history of sun exposure.

The researchers focused their work on three dietary patterns considered of high quality: Mediterranean diet, the DASH Diet (or dietary approaches to curb hypertension, according to its acronym in English), and a pro-vegetarian pattern.

The results showed that people who followed the Mediterranean Diet had a 72 percent lower risk of developing this skin tumor, a percentage that was 68 percent in those who opted for the DASH diet, whose coordinates are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; low-fat dairy; proteins from chicken and fish; vegetable oils; seeds and dried fruits such as walnuts.

Regarding pro-vegetarian diets, the study found no association between this pattern and the possibility of developing this type of cancer.

As explained by Maira Bes-Rastrollo, coordinator of the study and professor of Public Health at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Navarra, the association of these dietary patterns with the lower risk of basal cell carcinoma seems to be related to the consumption of fruits and low-fat foods, “Although it is also possible that other food groups also have small individual effects that are only evidenced as part of a dietary pattern, that is, when the cumulative and synergistic effects of the foods that make up these diets are considered”.

These data reinforce the protective role that foods such as vegetables, olive oil, or foods with low-fat content have on the skin. However, and in the specific case of basal cell carcinoma (the object of this study), the researchers warn that despite the importance of the results, more studies are needed to confirm these findings before establishing specific dietary recommendations to prevent the development of this type of skin cancer.

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