I am in the process of developing an all-natural line of beauty products, with ingredients that are so healthy you could actually eat them. However, I’m not suggesting that you’d really want to eat sunscreen out of a jar. Instead, as summer approaches I’d like to recommend that you eat the many fruits and vegetables that provide Mother Nature’s own sunscreen.

I’ve written about the importance of sun exposure and vitamin D production in the past, but I’ll recap briefly by saying that it is critical to get sunlight directly on our skin. Without the sun, and proper nutrition, no amount of vitamin supplementation will allow your body to create enough vitamin D to protect against such maladies as cancer, diabetes, obesity, infertility, auto-immune diseases, and bone loss. Think of how good you feel when you are in the sun. This feeling of well-being arises because your body is expressing healthy genes that get turned on by the production of vitamin D – which is really a hormone that regulates these critical genes for experiencing true health and vitality.

Still, sunburn is no fun, and there are times when we’d all like to be outdoors for longer than our skin can handle. This is when sun protection is important. I’m not a fan of most over-the-counter sunscreens, as they’re loaded with chemicals and ingredients that are toxic. The Environmental Working Group conducted a study of almost 800 name brand sunscreens:

“The analysis found that 84 percent of 785 sunscreen products with an SPF rating of 15 or higher offer inadequate protection from the sun’s harmful rays, or contain ingredients with safety concerns. Ironically, some popular sunscreen chemicals break down when exposed to sunlight and must be formulated with stabilizing chemicals. Others penetrate the skin and present significant health concerns.”[1]

So rather than slather my skin with a lotion that will a) cause health problems, or b) do no good to prevent sunburn, I like to do the following when spending long periods of time in the sun:

1)    Wear wide a brimmed hat to protect your face from unwanted UV rays that will cause wrinkles.

2)    After 20-40 minutes of direct sun exposure on other parts of the body, wear loose, light colored, natural-fiber clothing, and Eat Mother Nature’s Sunscreen.

Here is a list of phyto-nutrient families that give us real sun protection:

Lutein, a phyto-nutrient found in deep green and orange fruits and vegetables, protects skin from UV (sun) damage, and also boosts hydration, skin elasticity, and superficial lipids. Kale, spinach, chard, carrots, orange peppers, corn, pumpkin, and other squashes are all good examples of places to find lutein.

Beta-carotene, along with other carotenoids, accumulate in the skin and provide 24-hour protection against sun damage. These carotenoids are also important for vision, immune function, and bone health. They are found in yellow and orange fruits, and dark, leafy greens: squash, sweet potato, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, spinach, kale, etc.

Lycopenes enhance the use of stored vitamin D and protect the skin from sun damage. Lycopenes are found in red fruits, such as tomatoes, papayas, and watermelon,

The best news is that all of these wonderful fruits and vegetables are immune-boosters, filled with important anti-oxidants and much-needed fiber, and just plain good for you. And, of course, they’re delicious, so you can’t go wrong by including a few servings in your diet every day.

[1] http://www.ewg.org/newsrelease/whichsunscreenssafest