Everyone knows that daily sunscreen application is the best way to save skin from the sizzle and burn of the sun’s harmful rays. But there is so much more we can do to protect our skin from wrinkles and sunburns. The solution might be in the produce section of the grocery store with nutrient-rich anti-aging veggies!
Now, nothing can ever replace sunscreen. You should still apply an SPF daily. However, there some additional measures you can take to maximize your skin’s defense against the sun’s damaging rays. Certain vegetables can actually help with the appearance of fine lines and work to ward off the sun’s most dangerous rays.
Some of these anti-aging veggies have powerful antioxidants that can help protect our skin from harmful UV radiation.
Why You Need Carotenoids in Your Diet
One fruit and two veggies, in particular, have been suggested to help protect the skin against sun damage that can lead to premature aging. They each have two common things in them: they are carotenoids (red to yellow pigments) known as lycopene and lutein.
Lycopene and lutein, found in tomatoes, kale, and spinach, are believed to provide a kind of shield for the skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation.1
Lutein has been suggested to help protect the skin by preventing skin cell breakdown, which can lead to wrinkles and a loss of elasticity.2
Six milligrams of lutein is considered optimal to reduce the risk of cellular degeneration, but most Americans only manage to get 2 milligrams a day. Lutein is mainly found in leafy greens, but it’s also present in egg yolks.3
Our cells need plenty of oxygen in order to function properly, and that’s where lycopene comes into play. It’s an incredibly efficient oxygen-supplier, allowing skin cells to take in plenty of oxygen, possibly delaying wrinkling and helping to keep skin healthy. It’s also believed to stop harmful cell formations that could lead to serious skin health issues. Lycopene can be found in red carrots, papayas, and watermelon.4
Lycopene has been suggested to help keep skin smooth, which could diminish wrinkles and fine lines. Lower levels of lycopene in the skin was linked to rough skin.4
While gobbling down these veggies and fruits in a frenzy won’t protect your skin as well as a sunscreen will, adding them into your diet may be beneficial. Think of it as an extra defense mechanism for your skin.
The Big Three
Technicallya fruit, tomatoes are packed with different kinds of nutrients that can help ward off damage from time in the sun.
Lycopene and lutein were found to help protect against photodamage, along with other antioxidants such as b-carotene, phytoene, and phytofluene.5
These antioxidants are thought to protect against UV radiation. In addition, b-carotene may help stop the development of skin lesions.6
Packed with lycopene, lutein, and b-carotene, kale is also a suggested source for skin protection.
The b-carotene in kale is thought to protect skin much the same way as lycopene does, by providing the right amount of oxygen for skin cells to do their job.7 A recommended amount of b-carotene would be 30 milligrams per day. This amounts to eating one to two servings of greens, including kale.8
Spinach, popular green veggie that’s easy to find, has lycopene, lutein, and b-carotene as well. We know each of these antioxidants help to protect the skin by supplying cells with enough oxygen while combating the sun’s harmful rays.
It’s also a good source of calcium. Calcium is believed to control some major skin cell functions, such as cell division, migration, itch, and barrier homeostasis – meaning it can keep cell membranes working normally while protecting against potential invaders.9
While spinach, kale, and tomatoes are the best bets for lycopene sources.
How To Make an Anti-Aging Juice
If you’re struggling to include these, and other nutrient-rich veggies in your diet, perhaps it’s time to create a homemade anti-aging elixir. Because drinking your veggies is always a great idea!
Here’s a savory juice recipe that packs a potent punch. It’s rich in “the big three” as well as several other exceptional veggies.
In a juicer, combine:
- 2 large tomatoes
- 4 kale leaves
- 4 spinach leaves
- 1 green apple
- 4 carrots
- 4 celery stalks
- 1/3 of an English cucumber
- 1 clove of garlic
- a small chunk of ginger
Green apples are full of antioxidant vitamin C which can help to speed up cell production, leaving your skin to appear more radiant, fresh, and young.
Carrots are orange because they’re full of beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to slow the visible signs of aging by maintaining healthy skin cell production and protecting against UV damage. Carrots also contain Vitamin C, which helps the body to produce collagen – the key to maintaining plump, youthful, elastic skin.
Celery is not only extremely low in calories, it’s rich in phytonutrients which help to scavenge free radicals, which cause cell damage and leave us looking older than we really are.
Cucumber has shown evidence of both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – hence why they’re so soothing when placed on the eyelids. Antioxidant substances in fresh cucumber extracts may also help to fight free radicals.
Garlic is a natural antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant – great for pimple-prone skin! Just one little clove contains manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, fiber, copper, calcium, phosphorous, vitamin B1, iron, and potassium.
Ginger is exceptional in any juice as it peps up the flavor of any bland-tasting veggies. Historically, ginger is famed for soothing digestion and nausea but it’s also packed with loads of anti-aging antioxidants.
At some point, all of us will see wrinkles and a loss of elasticity in our skin. But we can see less of it by changing up our diet and including foods that have some pretty powerful antioxidants in them.
Tomatoes, kale, and spinach are known as “superfoods” with good reason. They are packed with nutrients our bodies need. But more than that, they may each help to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles brought on by sun damage. They may also help prevent further damage. As a side note, lycopene can be found in red carrots, papayas, and watermelon.10
Instead of dashing through the produce aisle at the store, stroll leisurely. Take your time and select key foods that may help you reverse the aging clock!
Article updated: April 3, 2018
1 Grether-Beck S, Marini A, Jaenicke T, Stahl W, Krutmann J. Molecular evidence that oral supplementation with lycopene or lutein protects human skin against ultraviolet radiation: Results from a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. British Journal of Dermatology. 2016. doi:10.1111/bjd.15080.
2 Evans Johnson E. The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):903-928. doi:10.3390/nu2080903.
3 Evans Johnson E. The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):903-928. doi:10.3390/nu2080903.
4 DARVIN M, PATZELT A, GEHSE S et al. Cutaneous concentration of lycopene correlates significantly with the roughness of the skin. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. 2008;69(3):943-947. doi:10.1016/j.ejpb.2008.01.034.
5 Grether-Beck S, Marini A, Jaenicke T, Stahl W, Krutmann J. Molecular evidence that oral supplementation with lycopene or lutein protects human skin against ultraviolet radiation: Results from a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. British Journal of Dermatology. 2016. doi:10.1111/bjd.15080.
6 Grether-Beck S, Marini A, Jaenicke T, Stahl W, Krutmann J. Molecular evidence that oral supplementation with lycopene or lutein protects human skin against ultraviolet radiation: Results from a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. British Journal of Dermatology. 2016. doi:10.1111/bjd.15080.
7 Evans Johnson E. The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):903-928. doi:10.3390/nu2080903.
8 Edible Plants as Sunscreen – Environmental Nutrition Article. Environmentalnutritioncom. 2012. Accessed January 10, 2017.
9 Bikle DMauro T. Calcium, Orai1, and Epidermal Proliferation. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2014;134(6):1506-1508. doi:10.1038/jid.2014.54.
10 Evans Johnson E. The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):903-928. doi:10.3390/nu2080903.