Foods that Protect Us from the Sun

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

Lycopene-rich tomatoes, watermelons and strawberries protect us best from damaging solar radiation, along with plenty of water to keep our bodies hydrated and better able to cope, nutritionist/biologist Haris Dimosthenopoulos – the head of the relevant department at Laiko Hospital – told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) radio station.

Favorite summer foods like tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, which has antioxidant action, Dimosthenopoulos said, meaning that they help protect from the so-called free radicals released by solar radiation and protect our skin.

“Of course, there is also vitamin C for carotene, which helps in generating melanine, the substance that protects from the sun. We find it in carrots and colored fruits and vegetables, such as apricots, mangos and colored peppers, eggplants, etc., and vitamin E, in olive oil, which is considered supreme for protecting the skin,” he said.

A handful of dried raisins, prunes or other dried fruits contain large quantities of vitamin C, protecting the body against free radicals, while nuts contain polyunsaturated fatty acids that protect from sunlight. Fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon and bream are also good sources of fatty acids while strawberries are not only a powerful protection against the sun’s rays but are also rich in tannins, helping to relieve the pain of sunburns.

As temperatures climb above 36C, the environment becomes more ‘hostile’ to our bodies and we have to ensure that we remain hydrated. The amount of water per day that is needed varies for each individual but is a minimum of 1.5 liters a day and can reach two or even three liters, depending on our age, weight and gender.

“For those that cannot drink a large quantity of water, alternative methods of hydration that do not put a strain on our system are sugarless soft drinks, sodas, tea or even juices, which may help us replenish some of the electrolytes that we lose through sweat, such as sodium and potassium,” Dimosthenopoulos said.

Drinks should not be ice cold, however, but merely cool while cold beers, contrary to popular belief, are not a good way to cool down because the energy needed to metabolize the alcohol in them raises our body’s temperatures and causes net loss of fluids.

Dimosthenopoulos also recommends steering clear of especially rich and fatty foods as the mercury climbs, opting for light meals based on fish and poultry instead of red meat and sauces, or even the vegetarian options in Mediterranean cuisine and salads, and simple carbohydrates, such as rice and pasta.

“When a food in high in fat it requires greater effort by our bodies to digest and this serves to raise our temperature,” he explained.