5 Everyday Dishes with Natural UV Defense

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It’s August, and by now you’ve likely worked your way through a few tubes of natural sunscreen.

But if you really want to get smart about protecting your beauty from sun damage this year, you’ll pack your diet with a few major nutrients that amp up your skin’s natural ability to defend against UV damage, promote healing and reduce the negative effects of the sun.

For natural sun protection from the inside, go for lycopene, beta carotene, vitamins C + E (they’re a power couple when eaten together), and omega 3s. If you think it takes work to get these nutrients in your diet, think again. The following 5 dishes—all common summer foods— deliver a major dose of sun-protective sustenance. They’ll give you extra sun defense (though don’t ditch your sunscreen) that will boost your anti-aging power all summer long.

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Leftover Squash? Try This Vit A-Packed Fall Spice Smoothie

Last night I roasted squash to serve as a quick side dish with soup. I halved the squash, set aside the seeds, and let it roast (cut side down in a tiny bit of water) for 40 minutes as I practiced yoga in the living room. When I was finished, it was too.

Not only is cooked squash (pick your fave: butternut, acorn, kabocha, delicata, hubbard) incredibly warming and grounding to our bodies in the fall, squash is super high in beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A, an essential beauty vitamin for healthy cell growth and damage repair, contributing to soft, clear, youthful-looking skin. Vitamin A is also important for strong vision! Getting enough A is easy with fall squash— one cup of cooked butternut squash has 457% of your daily vitamin A needs, for example.

That might be the end of the squash story— except for the leftovers...

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Seasonal Beauty Supper: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Base tonight's supper around one pumpkin, squash or sweet potato and you'll get a hefty dose of beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A, a major vitamin for healthy skin), vitamin C and fiber, all fantastic for radiant skin and tissue repair. Get my favorite new recipe, Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto, a true seasonal beauty supper!

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Soup Tonight, Glowing Skin Tomorrow

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I’ve always had an amazing resource for holistic health info right at my fingertips. My greatest teacher about natural health was, and is, my mom. As a nurse, her knowledge of how the body works combined with her fascination about the natural remedies and nutrition impressed me more than any encyclopedia or textbook.

On to the beauty angle: every time I complained about lackluster skin or a breakout during my teenage years, my mom would tell me to eat a few carrots. “They help your complexion,” she told me dozens of times. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s actually true. Carrots themselves aren’t going to clear up breakouts but they are so rich in beta carotene that you do see a glow in your skin after adding them to your diet.

How does the overnight magic work? Carrots are pro-retinol, that is, their beta carotene easily converts to vitamin A, which is one of the skin vitamins. Vitamin A is responsible for cell division and new cell growth. Sans vitamin A, your skin won’t rid itself of old cells as easily and you’ll be left with a less-than-smooth, noticeably dull complexion. The beta carotene in carrots is also a strong antioxidant that boosts immune function and helps protect against UV damage. It’s suspected to be anti-cancer and anti-aging.

The below recipe for Curried Carrot Soup one of my favorites (adapted from Martha Stewart’s own Curried Carrot Soup). It’s going to get me through the winter, and any other time of the year when I’m having doubts about my complexion.

Curried Carrot Soup:

1 tbsp butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 tsp curry powder

3 ½ cups vegetable broth

2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 1” chunks

1 ½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Sautee onions, salt, pepper and curry powder in melted butter for about 5 mins, until onions are soft. Add broth, carrots and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, 20 mins or more. Puree batches in a food processor or blender until the soup reaches your desired consistency. I like to leave a few carrot chunks. Season to taste.

*Just to note, plenty of other veggies are packed with beta carotene as well- try sweet potatoes, kale, pumpkin or apricots.