Eat Your Way to Healthy Summer Skin

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Five Foods That Fight Sun Damage

For a picker, I’ve always been incredibly blessed with forgiving skin. Regardless whether I poke, prod or pick at my pimples, I rarely often scar. Naturally, when the first batch of stress-induced cystic acne broke out across my face a little over a month ago, I attempted the impossible: relieving my clogged pores of what I believed to be dead skin cells.

Boy, oh boy, was I wrong to squeeze.

Not only did I cause the infection to spread, but I also failed miserably at removing the “heads” from my poor face. Cystic acne, as I soon learned, is an infection that lies much deeper under the skin. Unlike white head pimples or black head pimples, they manifest in the form of red, tender bumps. And, the cysts, full of pus, often never surface.

Scared half to death by my stern dermatologist and officially taking my first round of Roaccutane, I am now incredibly weary of everything that comes near my face—including my good for nothing itchy fingers. Sunscreen, another dislike of mine, thanks to its thick, oily formula, is currently a no-no that’s only used under extreme circumstances when I really can’t be my vampire-y self and avoid sunlight.

Thankfully, if you’re like me, suffering in a personal hell of abstinence from SPF because of sensitive skin, or if you really hate sunscreen in general, there’s another way to protect your skin from sun damage.

[divider]Keep reading for foods that antioxidize your skin![/divider]

Before I jump into why you should increase your tomato consumption, I think it’s necessary to first illustrate the dangers of excessive UV ray exposure. Too much sunlight, unfortunately, activates free radicals in our skin. The activation, in turn, accelerates the aging process of cells (hello, wrinkles!) by puncturing them and tearing them apart, and generates a wild chain reaction that makes us more susceptible to skin cancer. That said, when our skin “burns” our bodies are actually generating an immune response-inflammation to the free radicals.

Sun protection is best achieved when consuming an antioxidant-rich diet and when using a non-chemical protective sunscreen on a daily basis. This is simply because the amount of antioxidants in your blood decreases when your skin is exposed to sunlight.

Okay, now the tomatoes!

Tomatoes contain lycopene, or, an important antioxidant to have in your diet. The rule of thumb is, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains. If you’re not too keen on eating tomatoes, try your hand at some watermelon!

Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene and storage proteins called sporamins that have unique antioxidant properties. Once digested, beta-carotenes turn into Vitamin A which ultimately helps with skin cell regeneration.

Crimini mushrooms, or the cute little things you find on kebabs, are packed with skin-protecting nutrients like selenium. In fact, crimini mushrooms have the highest selenium content in all the foods that we eat. This, of course, is important because our bodies use the vital mineral to create potent antioxidants that fight the free radicals that form in our skin during sunlight exposure. Best of all crimini mushrooms are packed with Vitamin B—the key to youthful-looking skin cells.

Fatty fish contain carotenoid antioxidants that help keep the skin radiant. Omega 3 essential fatty acids, like those found in salmon, also act as powerful and protective anti-inflammatories.

Like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, green tea is an antioxidant food high in catechins. The deeper and richer the color of your tea, the higher its catechin content. So, steep those leaves and drink up!