Sun damage is the leading cause of skin (melanoma) cancer, and yet, no matter how much sunscreen we wear, our diets should still be considered for a healthy body and ultimate cancer protection. While eating one food won’t protect you from cancer, research has linked several simple, plant-based foods to protecting the skin from harmful rays that are linked to skin cancer. These foods then act like miracle protectors once inside your body; they take care of the skin by fighting free radicals that can also lead to aging, skin damage, and they prevent inflammation and arterial disease as side benefits.

While a well-rounded plant-based diet can provide your body with many nutrients for internal and external protection, several specific foods offer up some especially high doses of antioxidants tied to skin cancer prevention. Different stages of skin cancer do occur, with four types indicating how much damage has been done and if the cancer is able to be treated. The leading type, Basal Cell Carcinoma, accounts for 90 percent of skin cancer cases and can be spotted through shiny bumps on the skin, or flat-lesions red in color. It is also the most easily treated type of skin cancer.  Since 90 percent of cases stem from this type, if you discover you have skin cancer, be sure to not only start wearing sunscreen and stay out of the sun, but also add more healthy, nutrient-rich foods to your diet. You should also quit smoking if you do, since smoking is a leading cause of all types of cancer, which no amount of clean eating can help.

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So, let’s take a look at the top foods to add to your plate that are packed with antioxidants and protective benefits:

1. Carrots

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Carrots are packed with vitamins A and C, which are both free radical fighters and skin protectors. Vitamin A can ward off acne, aging, and wrinkles, while vitamin C also packs this punch of benefits. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash also offer the same benefits.

2. Tomatoes

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Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, one of the top nutrients tied to cancer prevention. While lycopene is commonly tied to prostate cancer prevention, it’s also helpful for preventing skin cancer too. Plus, tomatoes and foods such as broccoli, celery, onions, apples, grapes, and cherries are also a rich source of a type of flavonoid known as apigenin that fights skin cancer.

3. Spinach

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Full of nutrition in just about every single way, spinach is a food everyone should be eating. It packs in not only protein, but vitamins A, C, folate, iron, chlorophyll, and vitamin E. Vitamin E helps maintain optimal skin health and acts like a free radical fighter much like vitamins A and C do. It can also help prevent fine lines from too much sun exposure. Eat fresh, organic spinach when possible, but don’t neglect frozen spinach either which is economical and still nutritious.

4. Kale

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Kale, like spinach, is filled with nutrients to protect the skin, such as beta-carotene (vitamin A), along with vitamin C.  Aim to eat at least three servings of leafy greens a day, including kale, along with collards, bok choy, beet greens, arugula, and romaine which are all great sources of cancer-fighting nutrients.

5. Turmeric

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The antioxidant curcumin found in turmeric is linked to not only good heart health, but also skin cancer prevention too. It’s found in abundant amounts through many spices, with turmeric being the number one source. Use 1/2 -1  teaspoon a day throughout your meals to get the most benefits.

6. Apples

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Apples are a top source of vitamin C, which most people overlook in terms of fruits high in vitamin C. They’re also a great source of the antioxidant quercetin, a top nutrient linked to skin cancer prevention. Quercetin is a flavanoid, which is a type of antioxidant linked not only to cancer prevention, but also anti-aging and good heart health.

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7. Onions

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Onions are also great sources of quercetin to add to your diet. Plus, they boost liver function which is important when it comes to helping your liver cleanse itself of harmful substances. Onions also help the body maintain good heart health, immune health, and overall aging health so they protect the body in multiple ways. Garlic offers many of the same benefits, but does not offer quercetin like onions (and apples) do.

8. Green Tea

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Green tea is one of the best sources of antioxidants we can sip everyday (along with the coffee, of course!). Green tea has consistently been linked to cancer prevention, both in caffeinated and in decaffeinated form. Green tea contains antioxidants that actually starve cancer proteins and prevent cancer cells from developing. Add a couple or more cups to your diet every day. How about finally trying some of that matcha everyone keeps talking about?\

9. Berries

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Berries are also great source of flavanoids and vitamin C. Their antioxidant content and low sugar content also contribute to their anti-inflammatory benefits. A cup of most type of berries delivers your entire day’s worth of vitamin C (just like pineapple!) that helps protect the skin on a cellular level where cancer starts. Eat a cup a day to get the most benefits.

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Along with these foods, add more cancer-fighting foods to your plate and fill up on herbs and spices too, which are also highly linked to cancer prevention. Remember, your health is always in your hands more than you give yourself credit for.

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If you can eat your way to better health, then why not start today?

Check out our Plant-Based Nutrition guide for how to get in all these nutritious foods into your diet more easily and to learn more about the benefits they have to offer.

Lead Image Source: Flickr