Summer Shape-up

Boost your natural defenses with the 'SPF diet'

May 3, 2012 at 3:05 AM ET

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Too much fun in the sun? Boost your inner sunscreen superpowers with an "SPF diet." (Sorry, this doesn't mean you can skip the sunblock!)

 Have your healthiest summer yet! Ease into the dreaded "swimsuit season" with healthy tips from TODAY experts. All throughout May, we'll offer smart do-it-yourself ways to look, eat and feel better. So stop stressing about that swimsuit, and read on.

By Madriel Reyes


Research suggests that some foods can intensify your body's sun defenses. The meal plan below, created by Alyse Levine, R.D., of L.A., may help ward off UV damage and help lower your risk for skin cancer. (But, yes, you'll still need sunscreen.)


Recipes that save your skin

Garden Veggie Omelet: 1 whole egg and 1 egg white with 1/2 cup mix of tomatoes,green bell peppers, onions and mushrooms; 1 slice lowfat cheese; 1/4 cup salsa

Yogurt: Parfait 1 cup fruit salad (sliced guava, watermelon and apricots), 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt, 2 tbsp lowfat granola

Smoothie: 1 cup each watermelon, nonfat plain yogurt and strawberries; 1/2 banana; 1 tbsp honey; 1/2 cup crushed ice

Why they may protect

The antioxidant lycopene, the red pigment found in some fruit and veggies, does more than add pizzazz to your plate. Research from Newcastle University in England shows that people who ate about 1/4 cup of tomato paste every day suffered from fewer sunburns and increased their skin's natural sun protection by one third. Why? Lycopene soaks up free radicals and helps prevent DNA damage.


Recipes that save your skin

Tea and crackers: 2 high-fiber crackers topped with a smear of almond butter; 8 ozgreen, white or black tea

Nonfat latte: 1 oz of espresso with steamed skim milk, sprinkled with cinnamon and 2 shakes of cocoa

Trail mix medley: 1/2 ounce dark-chocolate chips, 2 tbsp mixed nuts

Why they may protect

These treats have flavonols, antioxidants with anticancer perks. Research suggests that downing a cup or more of tea a day may lower risk for squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, by 30 percent; drinking 2 to 5 cups of coffee a day may lower risk for nonmelanomas by up to 17 percent. And cocoa can make skin up to 25 percent less sun-sensitive.


Recipes that save your skin

Chicken wrap: High-fiber tortilla; 4 oz baked rosemary chicken; greens; mustard

Tuna salad: 3 oz water-packed tuna, 1/4 cup each diced green beans andtomatoes; 1 hard-boiled egg; 2 tsp vinaigrette

Salmon medley: 4 oz grilled wild salmon, coated with pistachios; 1 cup spinach,1/4 cup each carrots and cucumbers; 1/2 cup wild rice

Why they may protect

A Mediterranean diet that includes fish packed with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids—as well as citrus, fresh herbs and veggies rife with polyphenols—may slash your melanoma risk in half, the International Journal of Epidemiology reports. These compounds scour the body for potentially cancerous cells and help reverse some DNA defects early on.


Recipes that save your skin

Seafood salad: 1 cup mixed greens, 4 oz grilled halibut, 1/4 cup orange slices, 1 tbsp chopped almonds or walnuts

Pork plate: 4-oz grilled pork loin; 1 roasted sweet potato sprinkled with 2 tsp olive oil; 1/2 cup steamed spinach

Turkey burger: 4-oz turkey patty; 1 cup mixed greens, 1 oz feta cheese mixed with 1/4 cup each cucumbers and tomatoes

Why they may protect

Turn over a new leaf: People with a history of skin cancer who ate one serving of leafy greens (like spinach and kale) a day lowered their risk of developing subsequent tumors by more than 50 percent, the International Journal of Cancerfinds. Dark greens are loaded with antioxidants that seem to scavenge and destroy free radicals.

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Jenna Wolfe: Returning to fitness after a long break

Dr. Gail Saltz: Think yourself thin with these 3 tips