My good friend was diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer caused by harmful sun rays) at a tender age of 23. When something like this happens close to you, you suddenly realise the impact it has. What can you do to prevent sun damage to your skin? Aside from suncream (ears, toes and lips are places people most often forget), UV-blocking sunglasses (melanoma can occur in the eye) and staying in the shade from 11am to 3pm, nutritional guidelines can really help protect your skin. This was the inspiration for a recipe and an overview of beneficial foods for this summer:
HUMMUS RECIPE WITH SESAME OIL
Buy chickpeas and soak 1/2 cup in 2 cups of water over night or for 6 hours (if you are hungry RIGHT NOW, go out and buy already soaked chickpeas in a can). Put the chickpeas in a blender. Squeeze half a lemon and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil (cold pressed virgin olive oil is best) and blend. Crush a clove of garlic and add it into the mixture together with spices like cumin or red pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of water and 3 tablespoons of sesame oil to make a paste. Lastly, salt and pepper to taste.
1. SESAME OIL
“In vitro, sesame seed oil has inhibited the growth of malignant melanoma (a skin cancer): PROSTAGLANDIN LEUKATRINES and ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS 46: 145-150, 1992”. This research happened a long time ago, but sesame oil has been praised for it’s health, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, so it’s time to eat some self-made hummus!
2. LOTS AND LOTS OF TASTY TOMATO
A lovely fruit loaded with lycopene. Lycopene is an anti-oxidant which protects our cells from sun induced skin damage . Especially in summer time, grab a (preferably organic) tomato whenever you can – toss it in a salad, eat it like an apple, slice it as an extra next to your morning omelette, or have some Gaspacho (cold tomato soup as they make it in Spain). Just make sure you have a tomato every day, especially during sun exposure. You’ll be helping your skin from the inside, and your skin will thank you.
It’s the beta carotene (pro-vitamin A) in them which is a potent protector against skin sun damage. In the body, beta carotene turns into vitamin A, an important anti-oxidant which protects cells from sun damage. It’s a good idea to start eating more beta carotene a month or two before, and also during increased sun exposure. Carrots release their beta carotene more easily when they are cooked, so feel free to give them a little heat. Since vitamin A is best dissolved and absorbed in fat, this is also your chance to add a bit of butter or delicious cheezes into your carrot dish! A cup of carrots contains 10 times more vitamin A than you need in a single day, so have a carrot dish once a week or eat a single carrot daily (just like Buggs Bunny) to help your cells repair the sun damage and stay healthy!
4. GREAT GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES
Order salads at restaurants during this summer. It is so easy and yet so important to do this. These veggies are crowded with anti-oxidants which will help keep your cells in check.
5. WHITE INSTEAD OF RED ONION
According to a friend, a fellow nutritionism student, red onion has been shown to possibly encourage the growth of melanoma. So, when you can choose, opt for white onion this summer in your salads, and pick up the reds again in the winter time if you’d missed them!
6. CUT DOWN ON SUGARS DURING THE SUMMER
Sugars, sugars, sugars… are actually, unfortunately, SO BAD. The more I research and read about it, the more it seems that too much sugar is the common enemy of us all. Sugars eventually turn into advanced end glycation products. These molecules, AGEs (ironic name, right?), can cause cell damage if not cleared by anti-oxidants. How to deal with this? Skip the ice cream and go for a sorbet, eat an apple instead of a candy and make sure to buy chocolate with min. 60% cocoa (the more the better) if you really cannot resist this craving! When you are in need of a snack, something savoury like oven-baked potato chips is a better option if you are trying to cut down on sugars.