Food choices can minimize sunburn, reverse wrinkling

Jun 27, 2016 by Carol Bareuther

Good fats are heart-healthy. Calcium sustains strong bones. Fiber maintains a fit digestive system. Diet plays a key role in keeping the body’s major organs well. What many don’t realize is that there is a strong link between what we eat and the proper function of the body’s largest and fastest-growing organ – our skin. Skin protects all the other organs on the inside while serving as a barrier to keep bad things like germs out, so it’s a pretty important organ. On the other hand, skin is the organ most likely to suffer from long hours working in the sun onboard a yacht. Here are five foods to add to your diet for good skin health.

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, published a report in 2014 that recommended dermatologists tell their patients that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may provide skin cancer protection. Tomatoes are an especially good choice. This fruit (legally termed a vegetable) is a rich source of the phytonutrient lycopene. Scientists from Portugal reported earlier this year that lycopene is rapidly depleted in the skin after exposure to UV radiation. Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation and rays from this star are a major risk factor for most skin cancers. The good news is, that eating foods full of lycopene can help decrease skin cancer risk by protecting against sunburn. Tomatoes and tomato products are lycopene-rich. What’s more, lycopene isn’t destroyed during food processing, like making tomatoes into tomato paste, and in fact, processing actually makes the lycopene more absorbable. Additionally, olive oil boosts the uptake of lycopene in the body when combined with tomato products. UK researchers discovered this double whammy when they fed 21- to 47-year-old women a quarter cup of tomato paste in olive oil every day for three months and found they sunburned less than those who didn’t consume the concoction. So, enjoy tomato-based pasta and pizza.

Grapes, turmeric, chili peppers

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene which can help lessen the likelihood of sunburn. Credit: Dean Barnes

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene which can help lessen the likelihood of sunburn.
Credit: Dean Barnes

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, responsible for over three-fourths of skin cancer deaths. According to the scientific article, “Phytochemicals for the Management of Melanoma” published by U.S. researchers in February, resveratrol, curcumin and capsaicin are among these antioxidant plant-based nutrients that have been found to help prevent and treat metastatic melanoma in test tube and in animal studies. Grapes (grape skins specifically) are a potent source of resveratrol. Turmeric is high in curcumin and chili peppers (the hotter the higher) contain loads of capsaicin. Snack on grapes, add fresh grated turmeric to a smoothie and spike homemade salsa with fresh hot chilies.

Cocoa, green tea
Phytonutrients called flavonoids found in cocoa beans are responsible for helping to protect against reddening from sun exposure and prevent wrinkles, according to Italian researchers who published their research in 2014, in the scientific journal, Nutrients. In the study, women consumed cocoa powder mixed with water as a hot beverage and drank it daily. The darker the chocolate, the greater the flavonoids. Another good brew for skin is green tea. Chinese researchers found that when they asked 44 adult volunteers to drink 8 ounces of mineral water mixed with green tea daily for six months, that skin wrinkles and roughness was notably improved, especially in the older subjects.
Tomatoes, grapes, turmeric, chili peppers, cocoa and green tea are simple everyday foods that can help to protect your skin while out in the sun on the high seas.

Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Contact her through