Pick a pink one, though, because pink grapefruit gets its pink-red hue from lycopene, a carotenoid that may help to keep your skin smooth. In a study published in 2008 in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, researchers found that of the 20 individuals studied, those who had higher skin concentrations of lycopene had smoother skin. You can also get lycopene from tomatoes, carrots, watermelon, guava and red peppers.
Drinking a single cup of coffee daily may lower your risk of developing skin cancer. In one study of more than 93,000 women, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, those who drank one cup of caffeinated coffee a day reduced their risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer by about 10 percent. And the more they drank—up to about 6 cups or so per day—the lower their risk. Decaf didn’t seem to offer the same protection.
Edamame is rich in isoflavones—and isoflavones act like antioxidants, scavenging for and mopping up harmful free radicals caused by sun exposure. Isoflavones may also help to preserve skin-firming collagen—which begins to decline starting in our twenties.
Tofu may help to preserve skin-firming collagen because it is rich in isoflavones. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, mice fed isoflavones and exposed to ultraviolet radiation had fewer wrinkles and smoother skin than mice that were exposed to UV light but didn’t get isoflavones. The researchers believe that isoflavones help prevent collagen breakdown.
Egg yolks contain the carotenoid lutein, which like lycopene protects skin from UV damage. Lutein also helps to keep eyes healthy—mounting research links lutein with reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50.
Research suggests caffeine in tea (coffee too) may help to protect your skin against skin cancer. Caffeine basically kills precancerous and ultraviolet-damaged skin cells by blocking a protein that they need to divide, explains Paul Nghiem, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of dermatology at the University of Washington Medical School. In a study where mice were exposed to harmful sunburn-causing ultraviolet B rays caffeine inhibited the formation of skin tumors.
Soymilk may help to preserve skin-firming collagen because it is rich in isoflavones. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, mice fed isoflavones and exposed to ultraviolet radiation had fewer wrinkles and smoother skin than mice that were exposed to UV light but didn’t get isoflavones. The researchers believe that isoflavones help prevent collagen breakdown.
Carrots contain the carotenoids beta carotene and lycopene—both of which may shield your skin against UV damage. In one study, participants who were exposed to UV light had almost 50 percent less skin reddening after they drank about 1 2/3 cups of carrot juice or ate 2 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste daily, in addition to their regular diet, for 10 to 12 weeks.
Tuna—and other omega-3-rich fish—may help keep your skin looking youthful and prevent skin cancer. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), one of the omega-3 fats in fatty fish, has been shown to preserve collagen, a fibrous protein that keeps skin firm. And EPA in combination with the other omega-3 in fish, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), helps to prevent skin cancer by reducing inflammatory compounds that can promote tumor growth, says Homer S. Black, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Aim to eat two servings of fatty fish each week: not only are the omega-3s good for your skin, they’re good for your heart too.
Eating more vitamin C-rich foods, such as broccoli, may help to ward off wrinkles and age-related dryness, suggests research from 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin C’s skin-smoothing effects may be due to its ability to mop up free radicals produced from ultraviolet rays and also its role in synthesizing collagen, a fibrous protein that keeps skin firm.
Spinach boasts lutein, a carotenoid that protects your skin from UV damage. When buying spinach, pick the one right up in the light: new research, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, reveals that spinach stored continuously under the light for as little as three days boasted higher levels of vitamin C and preserved levels of K, E, folate and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Sardines are one of the healthiest foods we can consume: they’re packed with the omega-3s DHA and EPA, as well as vitamin D, which is found naturally in very few foods. The omega-3s may shield cell walls from free-radical damage caused by UV rays, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Sardines are also quick to reproduce and have rebounded since the Pacific fishery crashed in the 1940s, so much so they are one of Seafood Watch’s “Super Green” sustainable choices.
Like lycopene, beta carotene—the compound that makes pumpkins orange—protects your skin from UV damage. Beta carotene is also converted to vitamin A in the body, which helps to keep your eyes, bones and immune system healthy.
Cocoa (and tea and red wine) contain a type of flavonoid called epicatechin. In a study of 24 women, published in the Journal of Nutrition, drinking an epicatechin-rich cocoa beverage daily for 12 weeks improved skin texture. The authors explained that epicatechin increased blood flow to the skin, boosting nutrient and oxygen supply—both factors essential for keeping skin healthy.