THE weather has been busy lately with a blistering mini-heatwave, thunder, lightning, and heavy downpours. A day out involves taking umbrellas, jackets, and sunscreen!

There’s a fine balance to strike between always wearing sunscreen and getting enough sun exposure to make vitamin D.

Getting out in the sun without sunblock for short periods between 11am and 3pm is the best way to top up your levels in the summer months.

Staying indoors, wearing sunblock all the time, and having darker skin all increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency which is widespread in this country due to our limited number of sunny summer days.

If you’re spending longer spells outdoors, sunscreen is vital for preventing burns and skin damage.

We can also protect skin from the inside out, by eating foods plenty of antioxidant-rich foods each day. These nutrients don’t directly protect against sunburn but do help skin cope with the damage wrought by sun exposure.

This damage includes inflammation and alterations to DNA in skin cells (which can be the start of skin cancer), plus the breakdown of collagen in the skin. Collagen keeps skin plump and smooth; sun damage accelerates the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin.

Several research studies focus on the benefits of carotenoids found in red, orange, yellow, and green fruits and vegetables. As always, nature provides seasonal foods rich in these compounds: tomatoes for example are packed with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant which is even easier to absorb when the tomatoes are cooked and processed in some way. Homemade tomato soup, roasted tomatoes, Spanish sofrito sauce (tomatoes, garlic, onion, and olive oil) are simple ways to top up on lycopene.

Spinach, broccoli, edible marigold flowers, yellow peppers, parsley and peas provide lutein, an antioxidant that protects both skin and eyes from UV light damage. Lutein itself is yellow, but the chlorophyll in green veggies masks the colour.

Other colourful and skin protective foods include pomegranate, watermelon, avocado, green tea and cocoa. Combine some of these in a skin-friendly summer dessert of avocado chocolate mousse: blend together 1-2 avocados, 50g raw cacao powder, and a generous drizzle of honey. Place the mixture in small dishes, chill for at least an hour, then top with pomegranate seeds before serving.

Sally Duffin is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT). Find her online at or join the Facebook group ‘Nutrition in York’