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Feed Your Face: What to Eat to Fight Sun Damage

By Dr Jessica Wu

Are you spending Memorial Day weekend outdoors? If so, don’t forget to pack your -- red peppers?? While covering up and protecting your skin with sunscreen can help prevent sunburn and sun damage from the outside, you can also protect your skin from the inside by eating the right foods.

For example, fruits and vegetables such as red peppers and tomatoes get their red color from a strong antioxidant called lycopene. Some research has shown that lycopene can protect skin from the damaging effects of UV rays. In one study, volunteers who ate tomato paste every day suffered between 20 percent and 40 percent less sunburn than those who didn't. Unlike such compounds as vitamin C, which break down when exposed to heat, lycopene is better absorbed by your body when it’s cooked, so try to add stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted red peppers to your salads and sandwiches. If you’re shopping for fresh produce to cook with, choose the brightest red fruits and veggies -- they contain the most lycopene. In addition, lycopene is fat soluble, which means your body absorbs it more efficiently when you consume it along with healthy fats, so make sure there’s olive oil in your marinara sauce and avocado in your salsa. If you’re buying precooked or packaged foods, check the labels for red dye -- some studies have linked food dyes (including red dyes) to ADHD.

Stay tuned for more tips on eating to protect your skin this summer!

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