What I love most about summers are the longer days to enjoy the outdoor weather with my family and friends. I love traveling to go swimming in lakes, having picnics with juicy watermelon, and of course, sun bathing to get in my healthy dose of Vitamin D! The sun is our most natural source of vitamin D. Countless studies show how important Vitamin D is for our immune function. But how can we get the Vitamin D we need when we are told to block our skin with heavy chemical laden sunscreens?
Nutritional Sunscreen: When I went on a primarily Raw Foods Diet for about 10 months, I noticed I could stay out in the sun longer without getting burnt. During three months of the summer of 2012, I lived in Patagonia, Arizona, which is in the southern part of Arizona near Mexico. The intensity of the sun’s rays was stronger than what I was used to in my home in the Midwest. However, I would often sun bath with no sunscreen (to absorb Vitamin D) and I would not get burned! Of course, I managed how long I spent in direct sunlight. If I began to feel too hot, I would move to some shade. However, I did not burn during these 3 months of living in the desert. What I found out later, is that eating a large intake of fruits and vegetables provided my body with an abundance of nutrients that actually created an internal sunscreen that protected me from the sun! Some of these nutrients include carotenoids, tocopherols, flavonoids, and fatty acids. Most abundantly, I was consuming large amounts of Beta Carotene from all of the greens I was eating! Studies are showing that eating a large amount of Beta Carotene in the diet can create protection from the sun within the body. However, studies found the diet must be filled with a large amount of foods with Beta Carotene for at least 10 weeks to make this work. Also, studies have shown that this works best if the Beta Carotene comes from food rather than supplement. This is because your body is able to assimilate it better with all the other helpful nutrients the food is providing. In fact, too much Beta Carotene from supplements could actually be problematic. The largest food categories in my diet are made up of a wide variety of vegetables, greens, and some fruits. Because these foods are my staple, I am able to get the beta carotene and nutrients I need to create an internal sunscreen from nutrition! Try adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet on the list below.
Coconut Oil: Did you know that coconut oil has a naturally occurring SPF of 4? Not only does it smell delicious, it is hydrating for your skin and protects your skin. Use an Extra Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil, as the oils are delicate and may be destroyed when refined.
Need a little More? Try making a natural homemade sunscreen with coconut oil, beeswax, and zinc oxide. The zinc oxide will provide a higher SPF. Check out this site for homemade recipes: http://wellnessmama.com/2558/homemade-sunscreen/
Foods that are high is Beta Carotene: green leafy veggies such as spinach, chard, and beet greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, cherries, mangoes, apricots, papaya, persimmons, and cantaloupe
Studies show that in order to absorb enough Vitamin D for nutritional health, we need to spend at least 15-25 minutes in direct sunlight without sunscreen. Try spending time outside in the morning when the sun’s rays are less intense and try getting your sunscreen from your food or natural sources!