Before you hit your last beach days this summer, you might want to read this.

Some interesting and perhaps promising findings for sun worshipers have come out of Tel Aviv University recently. Researchers have found a link between many of the foods found in a Mediterranean diet and skin cancer prevention.

Dr. Niva Shapira from the university’s School of Health Professions published a study that showed that “a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, like the diet eaten in Mediterranean regions where melanoma rates are extremely low, can help protect us from skin cancer.” Shapira believes that these foods help prepare the body to fight the sun’s UV rays that damage the skin.  

In the study, two groups were given different types of beverages over a two-week period. One group was given a drink that was high in antioxidants. The other group was provided other drinks like soda.

Those who hydrated with the antioxidant-rich drink had 50 percent fewer oxidation products (i.e. MDA) in their blood at the end of the two-week period, which included five to six hours of exposure to the sun daily. Further studies proved that these antioxidants, especially carotenoids — fruit and vegetable pigments like red from tomatoes and watermelons and orange from carrots and pumpkins that accumulate in the skin where they serve as a first line of protection — had delayed the phenomenon of skin erythema, which indicates the initiation of tissue and DNA damage that can lead to skin cancer.
Shapira still advocates taking other preventative measures against the sun’s harmful rays. Using sunscreen regularly and using hats and beach cover-ups should still be part of a day at the beach, even for those who eat a Mediterranean diet.

So, what are some of the foods in the Mediterranean diet that can be found on American grocery store shelves (or even in your own backyard garden)?

  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Fresh fish
  • Vegetables – leave the skins on when possible
  • Fruits – particularly berries
  • Red wine – in moderation
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts – pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and roasted peanuts
  • Spices – cloves, cinnamon, oregano
According to Web MD, a Mediterranean diet can also help protect against heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even obesity.  

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Mediterranean diet may fight against sun's harmful rays
A new study shows that eating like the Greeks and Italians may help prevent skin damage.