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Sun hats, sun shades and non-toxic sunscreen are all summer essentials to protect our skin from excessive sun exposure, but we help also prevent sun damage from the inside-out. Here is a splash of colorful foods to can add to any diet that will help protect our skin and promote healing.

Tomatoes: Lycopene is a carotenoid found in tomatoes that can neutralize free radicals caused by sun damage. Studies report ingestion of 55 grams (quarter-cup) of tomato paste daily results in acute reduction of reddening following sun exposure.

TIP: Cooking or smashing the tomatoes makes lycopene more bioavailable and increases absorption.

Carrots: Beta carotene found in carrots can help protect the skin from free radical damage caused by the sun. It also stimulates melanin production, which helps the skin develop darker tones, rather than reddening.

TIP: Carrot seed and other essential oils do not offer significant SPF protection alone.

Turmeric: Curcumin possesses strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help combat damage from UVB light. In addition, curcumin has been shown to induce the tumor suppressor gene p53. Turmeric can be used in topical creams, as well as added to our daily diet for enhanced protection.

TIP: Black pepper increases turmeric absorption by 2,000 times.

Green leafy vegetables: Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful phytonutrients found in greens. Astaxanthin, found in algae, has up to 50 to 500 times more powerful antioxidant activity. These antioxidants can even halt undesirable cell growth caused from UV light.

TIP: Greens can be added into soups, sauces and mixed into salads to provide a nutrient-dense meal.

Almonds: Almonds are high in vitamin E and quercetin, which helps protect the skin and promote cellular healing from sun damage.

TIP: As few as 20 almonds contain enough vitamin E to provide sun protection.

Flax seed: Flax is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. The National Institutes of Health indicates that flax seed oil can offer protection against UV rays, help skin cells heal from skin damage and keep moisturized.

TIP: Flax seed oil can be added to smoothies to improve creaminess and boost nutrient value.

Pomegranates: Pomegranate seeds are high in antioxidants and ellagic acid, which has been shown to provide UVA/UVB light protection.

TIP: Pomegranate extract supplements increase the SPF of sunscreen by 25 percent.

Red Grapes: Proanthocyanidins and other polyphenols found in grape seeds inhibit skin cancer induced by UV rays. Quercetin can lessen oxidative DNA damage caused by UVB exposure and protect the skin from related inflammation.

TIP: Eat grapes with seeds to obtain max benefit.

The three tenets of skin health are shield the skin, support the skin and screen the skin. Holistic practitioners recommend preventing excessive exposure (shield), as well as routine assessments such as physical examination of the skin, dietary logs to monitor nutrient and water intake (support) and annual computer-regulated thermography (screen) to analyze current body functions and detect areas of imbalance before they are seen as surface symptoms.

Dr. Rebeca Gracia is Director of the Thermography Center, located in Dallas, at Spring Valley Rd. and the Dallas North Tollway. For more information visit or call 214-352-8758.

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