There are many edible ‘sunscreens’ to beat the burn

By Catharine L. Kaufman

“Sunbathing is like grilling. Everyone knows it’s bad for you, but no one ever stops doing It.”

— Laurie Colwin in ‘Home Cooking’

A century ago in America tanned skin was taboo, a gauche mark of an outdoor laborer. Today’s golden glow, now a symbol of prosperity and leisure, is a sure fire cause of premature aging, football-leather complexions and skin cancer.

Here’s a primer on how to safely enjoy SoCal’s solar bounty whether you’re a sun worshipper or a shade gator by protecting yourself from the inside out with the right sun-protective foods, although there is no substitute for common sun sense, and broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both damaging UVA and UVB rays.

Popeye’s Green Sunscreen

Studies have shown that green leafy vegetables, particularly kale, spinach and chard are mighty warriors packed with the pigment lutein that can dramatically reduce the risk of certain skin cancers by as much as 50 percent. Luteins create an internal sun shield that not only lessens burning, but protects optic nerves from sun damage, warding off macular degeneration down the road. And you don’t have to worry about luteins washing off in the water. Broccoli sprouts have also been touted as a sun-protective food to put the skids on skin cancer. So, pack a picnic lunch for the beach with leafy green slaws and salads, and whole-grain sandwiches dressed with broccoli sprouts and other green screens.

Your Cup of Tea

According to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, black and green teas are polyphenol powerhouses, concentrated antioxidants that protect internally from sun’s fire-breathing monster rays. Drinking two or more cups a day, particularly of the Goliath green, have been found to reduce the risk of squamous cell skin cancer by as much as 30 percent. So take a warm sip sweetened with agave syrup, a cool swig blended with fresh lemonade, or an icy scoop of green tea ice cream, and bask away.

Fish and Tips

There’s plenty of fish to fry, especially wild-caught, deep sea, cold-water ones like salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. These omega-3 fatty acid blockbusters reduce inflammation, and in turn serious sunburns that can hike the risk of developing assorted skin cancers. Two to three servings a week should do the trick. Try smoked salmon and red onion frittata, mixed seafood and fish ceviche with avocado and cucumber, sardine and heirloom tomato bruschetta or your fave grilled, poached, sautéed, marinated or stir-fried with crunchy veggies and almonds.

In the Pink

Pick fruits and veggies bursting with the colors of the rainbow along with carotenoids and lycopene to protect both skin and eyes from sun damage. These plants have rich pigments that act as built in sunscreens, and pass on the protective traits when consumed.

The biggest lycopene powerhouses are watermelons and tomatoes, the latter dialing-up lycopene when cooked and eaten with a fat for better absorption. Lasagna anyone?

Anti-Burn Bliss

Super dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 72 percent or higher has a motherload of antioxidants linked to protecting the skin from sunburn. Two ounces a day (need I twist your arm?) is the recommended dose — whether in a tall, cool frappe; shaved on a bowl of assorted berries; mixed with nuts and dried fruits; baked in a south-of-the-border chicken dish (ole mole); or savored straight up in a smooth dark chunky chunk.

Sun-damage Control

After the burn, Neala Moch, owner of The Stratford House spa and salon in Del Mar recommends gently placing a cool milk compress on the tender spots as the lactic acid tends to ease the sting.

Pure aloe vera and arnica gel are also cooling and healing, or you can concoct a soothing home remedy blending strawberry juice and honey. After applying the fruity balm, rinse off with a combo of warm water and lemon juice, avoiding the eyes.

Sweet and Savory Kale Chips

For a great multi-tasking beach snack, whip up a batch of these crunchy kale chips. They’ve got less fat and more calcium than their potato chip cousin, and more SPF, too.


1 bunch of fresh kale, ribs removed

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and brown sugar to taste

Method: Preheat oven to 300-degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Thoroughly wash and dry kale and tear into bite-size pieces. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with desired amount of seasonings.

Spread “chips” on cookie sheet and bake until edges become crisp but not burned, 16-18 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

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