Body Blog: Good Eating Is Skin Deep

I live for the summer.  In the spring, I count down the days until my last final and I miss it terribly during the fall.  I love the way the sun‘s rays touch my skin, I love reading novels lazily on the beach, my morning outdoor runs, and enjoying picnics and BBQs.  I love the skin-exposing, brightly colored fashions I get to wear.  I want nothing more than to be carefree during my favorite season, but unhappily I cannot be. There are two frightening words that come to mind whenever I’m wanting to bask in the sun and they are a constant reminder to apply sunscreen and limit my beloved time in the sun: skin cancer.

With that in mind it certainly is important to apply sunscreen, avoid tanning beds, and limit hours in the sunlight. But obvious these steps are not all that we can do to protect oneself from the sun’s damaging rays. It turns out that the foods we eat can have a protective effect!

The deal is this (and I am going to get a bit scientific here, so bare with me):  Cancer can only flourish in the body when cells that undergo free radical damage and the subsequent DNA damage (which happens when we spend too much time in the sun!) are unable to be repaired by the cell’s DNA monitoring and repair tools. Natural, plant based foods are rich in antioxidants and other cool, skin protecting chemicals, substances that are needed for these repair mechanisms to function most optimally.  Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds and other “bright colored” foods are loaded with these protective substances. If one’s diet is low in vegetables and fruits, the body will not be supplied with enough nutrients for its cells to defend itself from oxidative damaged caused by UV radiation.  Studies have pointed to green vegetables especially, as skin cancer (and most cancers for that matter) fighting foods.

The concept of consuming a high-nutrient, plant based diet has been supported in an enlightening study conducted in Australia. Researches analyzed the diet, skin color, and sunlight exposure of 1,360 adults, aged 25-75, who participated in a community-based skin cancer study from 1992-2002. Two main eating patterns were identified: a meat and fat pattern and a vegetable and fruit pattern. Interestingly, the meat and fat pattern diet was positively associated with development of skin cancer, and even more strongly associated in participants with a skin cancer history. Increased consumption of the vegetable and fruit dietary pattern reduced skin cancer occurrence by 54%, with the protective effect mostly attributed to the consumption of green, leafy vegetables. In conclusion, the researchers deemed that a dietary pattern characterized by high meat and fat intakes increases skin cancer odds, while a dietary pattern characterized by higher consumption of green vegetables decreases it.

If you are thinking, “I don’t eat many fruits and veggies, or man oh man, I totally fit into the “meat and fat” group,” don’t sweat it.  Summer is the perfect time to try including more fruits and veggies in your diet. Cook a vegetable shish kabob or corn on the cob on the grill at your next BBQ, try a tossed salad for lunch or pack some fresh berries or watermelon with you on a picnic or at the beach.  Being away from icky dining hall foods and stressful school assignments that leave you with little time to prepare your own meals leaves you with more freedom to explore other eating options.

Added bonus? Eating more bright colored foods will help you stay slim and look great in a bikini!

I Remember: My Journey through Fatness, Skinniness, and Healthiness
I Remember: My Journey through Fatness, Skinniness, and Healthiness
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