Surprising Sun Protection Foods + Supplements and Foods to Avoid

Images of onions and garlic, tomatoes and olives, salmon, olive oil and eggs for the sun protection foods post by The Healthy RD
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Your diet unquestionably affects your skin health.  So it should come as no surprise that there are sun protection foods that can help prevent UV damage too. 

In fact, much research indicates that your diet quality may be a natural way to help protect your skin from the sun. 

Still, when it comes to sun exposure, you will want to take caution and avoid sunburns as well. 

But, healthy food can also help protect you from the inside out. In this post, learn about the foods to eat, the foods to avoid, and supplements that can bolster the skin’s protection from the sun.

Sun Protection Foods

Image of hard boiled eggs, green tea, extra virgin olive oil and onions on a white background for the sun protection foods post by The Healthy RD

Some foods protect against free radical damage from the sun. This is because they are rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. 

The following foods to eat for sun protection are linked to a reduced risk of melanoma skin cancer according to one research study in Northern Italy. From this study, eggs and extra virgin olive oil are likely the best foods that help repair skin damage. 

Interestingly, meats and fish are somewhat protective as well. This could be because they are nutrient-rich foods that have high nutrient density, vitamin content, and collagen content. 

Sun Protection Foods List

  • Eggs-rich in vitamin A and protein building blocks for skin protection and may be the best SPF food out there.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil-is considered one of the natural sunscreen foods because it contain polyphenols and anti-inflammatory fats for skin buffering from harmful UV rays.
  • Onions and garlic are rich in sulfur-containing antioxidants that are well known to help protect from many kinds of diseases, including skin cancer.
  • Fish-contains anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids that protect the skin.
  • Organ meats are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like vitamin A that protect against UV damage.
  • Yogurt-contains probiotics which can help dampen inflammation in the body.
  • Berries– such as blackberries, raspberries, pomegranates, and strawberries are rich in an antioxidant called ellagic acid. This compound protects the skin and may reduce melanoma risk. 
  • Green tea-contains antioxidants that may reduce UV damage to the skin and protect from skin cancer.
  • Tomato paste is a concentrated form of tomatoes that is rich in antioxidants like beta carotene and lycopene, which is related to reduced skin cancer risk.  Other vegetables rich in these antioxidants are sweet potatoes and winter squash. 
  • Coffee intake, but not decaffeinated coffee,  is related to a reduced risk of skin cancer in some but not all studies. 
  • Beans and peas-preferably fermented ones like natto and tempeh contain antioxidants that may help protect the skin. 

Foods to Avoid for Sun Protection

Some foods may contribute to skin damage and sun damage. This is because they can cause the body to use up its antioxidant and vitamin stores.  You will notice that most of these foods are processed foods. They often contain processed seed oils which have high amounts of free radicals. 

Indeed, another study found that processed carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index significantly increase the risk of melanoma in women. 

For healthy eating to protect the skin you should minimize or avoid the following: 

  • Cereal
  • Candy
  • Sugar
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Cabbage
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Alcohol

Interestingly, cabbage intake is related to an increased risk of melanoma. In the study, the authors suggest that the reason for this may be that cabbage has high levels of heavy metals depending on where it is grown.

Dietary Supplements for Sun Protection

While having moderate sun exposure and healthy foods are important, some research indicates that key additional dietary supplements may help protect from skin damage too.  Vitamins for sun protection are a relatively new concept, but some research shows they can be beneficial. 

The following nutrients and vitamins may help protect skin health: 

  • Collagen supplements may reduce the harmful ultraviolet rays to the skin that cause skin damage.  
  • Vitamin C combined with vitamin E helps protect from sunburn.
  • Astaxanthin is an antioxidant that helps protect skin from UV damage. 
  • Vitamin A as retinol applied topically and taken as vitamin A supplements helps prevent absorption of harmful UV rays. 
  • Cod liver oil and fish oil supplements reduce the chances of sunburn. They also help reduce skin inflammation.
  • Resveratrol is one of the best antioxidants for sun protection. It protects the skin against harmful free radicals from the sun. 
  • Vitamin D supplementation reduces the redness and damage from UV sun exposure. Plus, vitamin D has many other benefits for bone health, joint health, and immune health. 
  • Turmeric is a natural spice rich in the antioxidant curcumin that has the potential to help many skin conditions, including acne, dermatitis, as well as UV aging.
  • Nicotinamide is a form of niacin that helps to reduce the risks of the types of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. According to Harvard Health, 500 mg twice per day is recommended. 

Foods that Cause Sun Sensitivity

Some foods may increase sun sensitivity if eaten in large amounts or frequently. Foods that contain furanocoumarins increase the chances of sun damage. The foods that contain furanocoumarins are celery, parsley, mulberry, legumes figs, and citrus fruits. They may be especially sensitizing for people with light skin tones. 

Most commonly, however, these cause skin irritation and redness if they touch the skin, not eating, such as when people get citrus juice on their hands, then followed by sun exposure.  

A deficiency of niacin, also known as vitamin B3, can also cause sun sensitivity

The Sun Has Benefits

Keep in mind that while the sun gets a lot of negative press, there are some big health benefits from responsible sun exposure. 

Being in the sun moderately helps to increase blood flow in the body, which is good for the heart and blood vessels. This results in a decrease in blood pressure too. 

Sun also helps improve mood and nature bathing helps the body combat stress. It is good for the immune system and is also good for bone health. 

Some of the more common and deadly disease risks are reduced by sun exposure, including breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune illnesses like multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. 

Summary of Sun Protection Foods

To help protect your skin from the sun, you should eat natural and unprocessed foods. Include foods such as natural eggs, extra virgin olive oil, fresh or frozen berries, onions, garlic, and green tea as well as fermented foods often to help. 

You should also avoid processed carbohydrate foods like baked goods, crackers, fried foods, and the like to avoid sun damage too. 

To go the extra mile, adding in some antioxidant and vitamin-rich supplements may also help keep your skin healthy and protected from damaging UV rays. 


What should I drink for sun exposure? 

Antioxidant-rich drinks are helpful, such as drinks with 100% berry juice, tomato juice, and cranberry juice. However, it is best to eat these foods in their whole food sources whenever possible. 

What is the best time of the day to be in the sun? 

Research shows that noon is the best time to get vitamin D from the sun while also minimizing risk of skin cancer. 

Is it possible to protect the skin from the sun naturally?

Somewhat. Using a zinc-based sunscreen is a natural way to go. Additionally, using coconut oil and covering up with clothing are natural sun protectants. But the most important part of sun protection is avoiding excess time in the sun. 

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