There’s more to summertime skincare than sun block and moisturizer. To prevent and repair free radical damage and inflammation caused by ultraviolet radiation, we need to choose the foods we eat as carefully as our skincare products. Luckily, summer fruits and vegetable are packed with the antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and other plant chemicals we need to help minimize the development of wrinkles and reduce our chances of skin cancer.
Here are five of the best sources of these skin-saving nutrients:
• Lycopene-loaded fruits and vegetables - The plant pigment that gives produce like tomatoes, watermelon, raspberries, and red peppers their inviting color, lycopene give us the advantage of an internal sunscreen. Results of a 2008 study showed that subjects who ate 5 tablespoons of tomato paste a day for 12 weeks enjoyed 30 percent more protection against sunburn than those who did not.
• Eggplant - Thanks to its generous supply of phenolic acids, eggplant ranks in the top 10 of foods that counteract free radical damage.
• Cantaloupe - The beta-carotene in this juicy, delicately flavored summer fruit not only neutralizes free, radicals, but may also help reduce sun sensitivity.
• Cucumbers - In addition to protecting our skin with a variety of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, cucumbers serve as a tasty, refreshing way to avoid the dehydrating effects of hot, sunny days. Their ample water content is complemented by a combination of minerals that help regulate fluid balance. These characteristics make cucumber juice substantially more hydrating than an equal volume of drinking water.
• Tart cherries - High in flavonoids, polyphenols, and vitamin C, tart cherries help protect against cancer, inflammation, and aging. Greatly prized in my native Romania, where they’re known as sour cherries, these tangy treats are a smart alternative to their sweeter cousins. In addition to containing a greater concentration of anti-inflammatories, tart cherries have a much less significant impact on blood sugar levels than sweet varieties like Bings. Their lively flavor can help retrain sugar-saturated palates to appreciate the zippy taste of a full range of healthful tart foods from pickled beets and cabbage to unsweetened yoghurt. Rich in melatonin, tart cherries also help our body get more of restorative beauty sleep that it needs for cell repair and regeneration.
Eating Sun-Smart Foods the Romanian Way
Served on their own or as part of rainbow-hued salads, these flavorful nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables appeal to our summertime appetite for light yet sensually satisfying foods. For a truly mouth-watering experience, arrange your selection artistically on a simple white plate and add an appropriate garnish. Try a sprig of mint on cantaloupe. Or sprinkle some fresh oregano or basil on sliced tomatoes for eye-catching contrast and a more intense and complex taste and aroma. The zesty Romanian salads outlined below are two of my favorite summertime recipes. The healthful oils they contain add a silky texture as well as an extra dose of sun protection. If you want to escape from the kitchen, roast the vegetables on an outdoor grill.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salt to taste
Wash the peppers. Turn the burner on high, and place the peppers directly on the flame. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes turning on all sides. Once roasted (the skin turns black), place in a colander and place the colander on top of a large bowl. Let the peppers cool and the juices drain. Gently peel the skin off the peppers. Remove the stem and seeds. Cut each pepper in thin lengthwise slices. In a bowl mix together the olive oil, vinegar and salt and add to the peppers. Mix together. Serve immediately or later. This dish can be done a day ahead.
4 small Italian eggplants
1 small onion thinly chopped
1/4 cup grape seed oil
Salt to taste
Instructions for gas stove or grill: Turn the burner on high and place the eggplant on the flame. Turn every couple of minutes until roasted. An Italian eggplant needs about 15 minutes to roast as it is thin, but thicker eggplant will need additional time. Place the roasted eggplants in a colander, and place the colander on top of a large bowl. Let the eggplants cool and the juices drain out of eggplants for a minute or two. Once cool, peel the skin off the eggplants. Place on a chopping board and give the eggplant a rough chop. Chop the onion finely.