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Nutrition and Skin Protection

March 26, 2007
by Janice Baker, R.D., CDE

     Protecting your skin against excess sun exposure is the most important part of reducing your risk of skin cancer.  We also know that other factors are important in risk reduction, such as avoiding tanning booths, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or greater – reapplied frequently, avoiding smoking and annual skin cancer exams with a dermatologist who can show you how to do monthly skin examinations at home. 

    Research has also indicated that healthy diet habits may also play a role in preventing sun damage.  A diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables provides antioxidants such as vitamin A, C and E which may protect against wrinkle-causing free radicals. Using olive oil to sauté vegetables may help increase the absorption of antioxidants, since many of these nutrients are fat soluble.  Use olive oil sparingly, though, if you are watching your weight, since it is calorie dense.  Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, flaxseed and walnuts are also shown to help reduce rates of precancerous and cancerous skins growths, when used as part of a lowfat diet.  And caratenoid-rich foods such as canteloupe,  mango, sweet potatoes and tomatoes have also been shown to have good sun protection benefits. 

     You can plan some lovely  meals around these healthful and delicious cancer-fighting foods which besides protecting your skin, can also help decrease your risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and other types of cancers.  So cover up well, use your sunscreen and enjoy our beautiful weather!


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