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Eat Your Sunscreen

Janis Covey

Eat your sunscreen?  Now, before you trash your favorite sunscreen, we don’t suggest that you stop applying your SPF (This is extremely important.  Looking for safe sunscreens, check out MADE SAFE's Guide), but we do mean you should eat to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to protect and repair itself from UV rays. 

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Vitamin D: We all know that a little bit of sun exposure to let our bodies produce vitamin D is essential for good health.  However, with the rise in use of sunscreens, the majority of Americans are deficient in vitamin D.  This is a contributing factor to the recent increase in bone fractures (vitamin D is required for proper absorption of calcium).  There are also certain cancers which are linked to vitamin D deficiency.  More research is needed on sun exposure, sunscreens and vitamin D deficiency, but it appears that a small amount of time in the sun (about 15 minutes for fair skin) could have both positive effects on our immune systems and protective effects against certain types of cancer, including skin cancer, with the boost of vitamin D levels.

Lycopene: Lycopene is from the carotene family and is an excellent free radical scavenger.  A study done in 2001 found that consuming lycopene rich tomato paste resulted in a 40% lower sunburn reaction than the control group who only consumed olive oil.  Lycopene is found in red foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and grapefruit.  If you prefer spicy to sweet, Chili powder is also an excellent source of lycopene.

Dietary Tomato Paste Protects against Ultraviolet Light–Induced Erythema in Humans

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Vitamin C:  Vitamin C boosts the immune system to fight free radical damage.  Vitamin C also aids in the body’s collagen production.  Collagen is the protein that forms the basic structure of the skin.  Breakdown of collagen will leave the skin saggy.  Vitamin C is not stored in the body and must be consumed regularly.  It is especially important to eat foods high in vitamin C after sun exposure since levels will most likely be depleted.  Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit are high in vitamin C.  As well as papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and strawberries. 

Beta-carotene:  Beta-carotene is an anti-oxidant and another excellent free radical scavenger.  Beta-carotene can help prevent burning and the damaging effect of the sun’s rays.  Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A.  Vitamin A is essential for healthy skin, the immune system and eyes.  Most importantly, beta-carotene in the body converts only what it needs into vitamin A.  Vitamin A is toxic at excessive levels which can occur with overuse of supplements.  Foods rich in beta-carotene are sweet potatoes, carrots, mangos, kale, spinach and broccoli.

Lutein: Lutein is a phyto-nutrient probably most recognized for its benefits in eye health.  Lutein protects the skin from sun damage, boosts skin hydration and elasticity.  Lutein is sensitive to heat so it's best to consume raw foods high in lutein such as kale, spinach, carrots, orange peppers and broccoli.

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Polyphenols: I saved the best for last!  Any health benefit that includes eating dark chocolate is a win in my book!  Polyphenols are powerful anti-oxidants and offer protection against radicals.  Excellent sources of polyphenols include green tea, black tea and DARK CHOCOLATE (yum). 


Earth Day Easy Swaps

Janis Covey

Earth Day is here, and it’s wonderful to celebrate Mother Earth, but as we all know, we need to start celebrating her every day by cleaning up our surroundings.  I’m sure you've heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is a floating island of trash that is twice the size of Texas and continues to get bigger every day.  Here are some simple ways you can reduce your plastic waste.

Plastic Straws:  Single-use plastic straws are extremely harmful for the environment.  They can take up to 200 years to decompose and can injure wildlife.  When eating out, request no straw or bring a reusable one.


Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles:  Only about 23 percent of plastic water bottles are actually recycled.  Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles last year so ultimately 38 billion water bottles ended up in landfills.  It takes up to 450 years for a plastic water bottle to decompose.  So, pass on the single-use plastic water bottle and use a refillable one instead.  Bonus points if it’s metal or glass.



Balloons:  I know that balloons are colorful and decorative in celebrating special occasions, but these short-lived decorations have a huge negative impact on our environment.  Latex balloons biodegrade, however, it can take six months to four years for this to occur.  In that time, they pose a huge health risk to wildlife.  Animals mistake balloons for food and ingest them.  Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been found to have balloons in their stomachs which can cause entanglement.


Plastic bags:  Plastic grocery bags and zip-lock bags may be convenient, but they are major contributors to landfills and pollution.  It is estimated that 500 billion are used around the world each year.  As plastic bags break down, they slowly release toxic chemicals into the soil.  They are also a major threat to wildlife.  Animals eat and can choke on them, and they can become lodged in their digestive systems. Use reusable bags, or if only buying one item, refuse the plastic bag.  For zip-lock bags, opt for reusable metal or glass containers.

Any other easy swaps?  Let us know in the comments.

Fighting Allergies Naturally

Janis Covey


Here comes the warm weather!  But with the increase in temperatures comes an increase in pollen, and therefore, seasonal allergies.  There are numerous medications on the market, such as anti-histamines, to deal with the symptoms, but they come with a slew of side effects.  These can include dehydration, sleepiness and constipation.  There are several ways to relieve allergy symptoms before you need to reach for that medication.

Shower before Bed:  Think of your hair as a sponge.  It is absorbing pollen, dust and other allergens all day.  When you lay your head on your pillow, you transfer those allergens to it, and then as you sleep and turn, you are inhaling them.  Have you ever woken up stuffy with swollen allergy eyes?  This is probably why.

Avoid Fragrances:  We aren’t just talking about perfume but any product containing synthetic fragrance.  The term fragrance on a label is a catch-all.  Fragrances can be made up of thousands of different chemicals and many of them are known allergens.  Instead, reach for products that are unscented or scented with essential oils.

Avoid Spicy Foods:  Spicy foods activate the immune system.  Opting for a blander diet will prevent immune activation.


Foods to Avoid: Tomatoes, I know this is hard to hear.  Tomatoes are a summer staple, but tomatoes contain histamines, and histamines trigger an allergic response.  Another food to avoid is dairy.  Dairy thickens mucus and makes it harder to clear.  We all hear how bad sugar is for us.  Unfortunately, sugar can be added to the list of foods to avoid, because it also worsens allergies.  Sugar causes inflammation which is an important player in the allergic response.  Decreasing the body’s inflammation helps keep allergies in check.

Drink Green Tea:  Japanese researchers found that EGCG, the abundant anti-oxidant compound in green tea, helps stop your body from mounting an immune response to a variety of allergens including pollen, dust, pet dander and dust.

Eat Onions, Peppers, Berries and Parsley:  All these foods are high in quercetin.  Quercetin is a natural compound found to reduce histamine reactions.  Histamines are a major player in the body’s allergic response.

Eat Pineapple:  Pineapple contains the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain.  Bromelain thins mucus and makes it easier to clear.  There are some studies showing that pineapple is as effective as over the counter cough suppressants and mucolytics.

Add Turmeric:  Turmeric contains quercetin which helps reduce the body’s response to histamine.  It also contains curcumin which is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Have any other tips for naturally fighting allergy season?  Let us know in the comments.