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Healthy Summertime Diet Tips

Summer – that can only mean two things – sunshine and barbecues. Unfortunately, neither of those is considered to be very much health promoting, given fears of skin cancer from sunburns on the one hand and concerns about the cancer-causing effects of charred meats on the other. But, there is no way we are going to let us spoil our fun. So, here come a few tips for a healthy summertime diet and sun tanning.

Enjoy the Sunshine

Although concerns about skin cancer from too much sun exposure are real, we should not let them turn us into a total sun dodger. Fervent recommendations to avoid the midday sun, always cover-up and ply every square inch of our skin with sunscreen seem too common. Alas, sun paranoia has gone a bit too far, leaving us at risk of vitamin D deficiency. BTW, reports say that in sun-drenched Australia more than 80% of dermatologists have very low vitamin D levels. These statistics reminds us that it is possible to be just a bit too smart for our own good.

Getting out in the sun for a few minutes without sunscreen in the middle of the day will enable our body to make required amounts of vitamin D. It is difficult to say exactly how long we need to stay in the sun, as that depends on several factors, such as our skin colour (pigment absorbs UVB), our age (our ability to make vitamin D decreases with age) and how much body fat we have (vitamin D gets taken up by fat cells). As a rough guidance, for someone who is white Caucasian, young and slim, a mere four minutes of sun exposure to the arms and legs (without any sunscreen) should produce a satisfying 1,000 IU of vitamin D. It is needless to mention that when it comes to sun exposure, it is definitely not a case of more is better. It is not a good idea to redden or burn. If it happens, we know we have gone too far. See also “A Few Tips for Healthy Sunbathing“.

Healthy Foods for Sun Protection

A little sun is good for our health but the long-term effect of the sun on the skin, known as photoageing, is a strong factor involved in skin ageing. But imagine, what if we could boost our skin’s defences against the harmful effects of the ultraviolet radiation by eating certain foods, whose active ingredients accumulate in the skin and act like a natural, in-built sunscreen?

It sounds a bit crazy but when it comes to enhancing our skin’s natural protection against ultraviolet light, we need to look no further than the mighty trio of green tea, dark chocolate and tomato sauces. Thanks to green tea polyphenols, cocoa flavanols (found in bitter dark chocolate and particularly in raw chocolate) and lycopene from cooked and processed tomatoes, we have got some tasty friends for skin health over the summer months, with all three known to protect the skin from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. No one is saying, though, ditch the sunscreen this summer but this trio of skin friendly nutrients will provide our skin with a basic layer of protection.

When it comes to barbecue meals, the problem is that high temperature cooking, which browns and chars meats and produces an array of cancer-causing chemical substances called heterocyclic amines. But don’t freak, all we need is a good marinade. Marinating meat before cooking significantly reduces heterocyclic amines formation, especially when the marinade is packed full of culinary treats such as lemon juice, virgin olive oil, garlic, onions and lots of herbs and spices. And beer, as a marinade, does the job pretty well too. But keep the marinade homemade because commercial offerings, full of fructose and honey, have just the opposite effect. And to go full circle, let’s get back to flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables, green tea, cocoa and red wine. All of these help reduce the activity of cancer-causing heterocyclic amines. So, who said that healthy summertime food cannot taste good?