Best Foods & Herbs For UV Protection

Safari hat? Check. 

Long-sleeve breathable, sweat-wicking synthetic fiber hiking shirt? Check.

Shants? Check. 

(Don’t know what ‘shants’ are? Here’s a pic:)

Coral reef-safe, natural sunscreen? Check.

Sun Protect, the world’s best encapsulated UV-blocking and skin repair formula? And check.

Now you’re ready to hit the trail. 

In addition to hat, clothes, sunscreen, and Sun Protect, eating a diet rich in the following foods every day may boost your body’s natural defense against ultraviolet radiation damage:


This potent UV-protector is a member of the carotenoid class of antioxidants. Carotenoids are red, yellow and orange pigments. (That’s where the name “carrots” come from.) 

Anything with tomatoes contains lycopene. Watermelon; red peppers (not the spicy kind); grapefruit; red cabbage; mangos; and papaya are also excellent sources. 

One of the best ways to get a daily dose of lycopene is by consuming a tablespoon of tomato paste. Tomato paste offers a very concentrated source of lycopene. 

A study in Scientific Reports on mice suggests daily supplementation with tomato powder can negate the effects of UV-B light, the spectrum of ultraviolet light that causes sunburn.

(Sun Horse Energy Sun Protect offers protection from UV-A and UV-B radiation.)

After nearly 6 months, the mice that were fed dehydrated red and tangerine tomatoes had fewer skin tumors than the control group. 

In another study, this one from Journal of Nutrition, human test subjects received either tomato paste and olive oil or only olive oil.  Both groups were exposed to UVB radiation which caused a superficial reddening of the skin. After the 10-week mark, the reddening of the skin in the group who consumed tomato paste and olive oil was 40% lower. 

However, these studies in no way implies that lycopene is a substitute for sunscreen. 

Maca Root

Maca is an adaptogenic herb in the Sun Horse Global Resonance Formulation, which is the 13 adaptogenic herbs in most of our formulas that contribute to homeostasis and optimal well-being.

While maca root’s claim to fame is its libido-enhancing effects, this study implies maca makes for an excellent skin-protecting herb. In a rodent model study, it prevented UV irradiation. “Maca can be suggested as an alternative means of solar protection,” the study authors suggest. 


There’s a skin-protecting fungus among us! Edible fungi such as Reishi, another adaptogen featured in Sun Horse Energy’s Global Resonance Formulations, may act as a sunburn prophylactic. Just as maca root is more well-known for libido-enhancement, edible fungi have become known as an immune-supporting superfood. 

This study of 29 different mushrooms found in Tibet were shown to prevent damage in keratin, a protein that functions as a protective building block for skin. 

In particular, reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) extract was shown in a different study to have “radioprotective ability, as well as protection against DNA damage induced by metal-catalyzed Fenton reactions and UV irradiation.” 

Let’s break down what this means. The first benefit, ‘radioprotective’ ability doesn’t mean that reishi will prevent your AM/FM radio from breaking down; in this sense it means protection against ultraviolet radiation. As for Fenton reactions, this is when hydrogen peroxide is converted into a highly toxic hydroxyl free radical. Although this study was done in vitro (in cell culture, not in human clinical trials), the researchers say that reishi merits investigation as a potential preventive agent in humans.


Because adaptogenic herbs help normalize the body’s response to stress of all kinds, including the stress of UV radiation, theoretically, any adaptogenic herb can offer UV protection. However, we’re not going to go through all 13 adaptogenic herbs that serve as the foundation for most Sun Horse Energy formulas. That would take way too long. 

So ashwagandha will be the last one. Perhaps best-known for its stamina-boosting benefits, the herb known botanically as Withania somnifera “has potent cytotoxic effect on human malignant melanoma A375 cells,” conclude the researchers in this study from 2015, which was the first to examine the effects of this adaptogen on human cancer cells.

Polypodium and Baicalin

Before we include some more common foods, let’s add 2 more herbs to this list of best foods and herbs for UV protection: Polypodium leucotomos and Baicalin. Why are we grouping these two herbs? Because they are two of the three ingredients in our UV-protection and repair formula: Sun Protect

All Sun Horse Energy formulas are quite complex, meaning they contain several herbs, which act synergistically to influence homeostasis; the sum of the herbal action is greater than the individual parts. 

However, with Sun Protect, it’s just Polypodium, Baicalin and a third ingredient mentioned soon, below. On the Sun Protect product page, there’s a research link to both herbs (here and here). What the research shows is that both herbs not only may support the body’s natural defenses against UV radiation damage, they also may, at the cellular level, repair skin that’s already damaged by UV radiation. 

Best Foods For Sunburn Protection

In addition to eating foods rich in carotenoids and taking the above herbal extracts, regular consumption of the following foods may also help protect your skin:

  • Grapes: Rich in resveratrol; the seeds contain proanthocyanidins. Both these types of potent exogenous antioxidants may help prevent sunburn.
  • Beta Carotene: A precursor to vitamin A, this nutrient is found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, and spinach, to name a few healthy veggies. 
  • Citrus fruits: Regular consumption of vitamin C has been shown to hydrate the skin and prevent oxidative stress.
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids: Flax seeds, salmon and walnuts are rich in this polyunsaturated dietary fat that we need to get from foods because our body doesn’t make it on its own. Salmon also contains the carotenoid, astaxanthin, which has also been shown in research to minimize UV damage. And that’s precisely why we recently added astaxanthin to our latest formulation of Sun Protect.

Astaxanthin For Sun Protection

Astaxanthin is what gives shrimp, crab, and salmon their reddish tint. Microalgae such as red seaweed is also rich in astaxanthin, which has a free-radical scavenging effect (for singlet oxygen) 1,000 times greater than that of coenzyme Q10.

In studies on rodents, astaxanthin has been shown to prevent UV-induced skin-aging and burn-wound progression. However, there have been only limited study on the beneficial effects of astaxanthin on UV-induced skin damage in healthy people.

But in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in Nutrients, researchers evaluated the effects of dietary supplementation with astaxanthin on UV-induced skin damage in human subjects.

The researcher’s findings: “These results demonstrated the protective role of dietary supplementation with astaxanthin against UV-induced stimuli and its usefulness for the maintenance of healthy skin.”

Best Foods For Sun Protection: Conclusion

Another few things that you should eat on a regular basis include berries and other fruits that are relatively low in sugar and possess high nutrient-density. And just keep in mind, even if you eat all these foods and take these herbs on a regular basis, it’s no substitute for sunscreen. Just make sure to choose a sunscreen that contains no synthetic chemicals or nanoparticles. 

For full sun protection, before heading outside, take 1 Sun Protect capsule, and then take another when you’re done having fun in the sun.

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