Surprising Skin Cancer Protector and Defender of DNA Damage: Dark Chocolate and Cruciferous Veggies! Talia Fuhrman shares her newest (and most favorite) summer food discovery;
I am a totally foodie. That is, a health food foodie. I love food and I like mine nutrient packed and flavor rich. That being said, I have a reputation for loving dark chocolate. It’s a bite sized dose of heaven on my tongue and it’s fits my bill of nutritious yet oh so delicious. I also have a reputation for loving kale chips and green drinks (as in the healthy, non-alcoholic kind). Turns out these food preferences work in my favor now that warm weather is here and the sun is shinning its rays on us more frequently.
It appears that dark chocolate, with it’s abundant supply of antioxidants and these totally kick-ass nutrients called flavonoids, can help us ward off skin damage from the sun’s rays just as fruits and veggies do.[i] A study conducted by German researchers at Heinrich-Heine University found that women who drank a dark chocolate hot cocoa, versus a “chocolate” placebo beverage devoid of flavonoids, had smoother and moister skin compared to those drinking the placebo beverage. Upon exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, the skin of the women drinking the dark chocolate hot cocoa did not become as red, which is an indication of skin damage. The women who drank the high-flavonoid cocoa had a 15 percent less skin reddening from UV light after 6 weeks of hot chocolate drinking and 25 percent less after 12 weeks on the trial. The women drank the cocoa drink once every day along with breakfast. Okay, I officially adore this study.
Just a note of caution: make sure that the dark chocolate you consume isn’t sugary (like many popular chocolate beverages) or loaded with saturated fat (like most chocolate candies). At my house we make recipes using organic cocoa powder, such as chocolate date-nut snacks and black bean brownies, to avoid the sugar and saturated fats commonly found in chocolate candies. We also buy organic, vegan 88% dark chocolate squares from our local health food store. A little goes a long way with chocolate and even a small square of dark chocolate will provide the benefits seen in this study. Hence, my suggestion is to skip the candy isle and check out the rich dark chocolate sold in health food stores or make your own chocolate recipes. Eat your high percentage dark chocolate from fair trade sources and you shall reap the rewards of beautiful, glamorously healthy skin.*
A leafy-green vegetable rich diet has also been found to provide skin protection in an enlightening study conducted in Australia.[ii] Researches analyzed the diet, skin color, and sunlight exposure of 1,360 adults, aged 25-75, who participated in a community-based skin cancer study from 1992-2002. Two main eating patterns were identified: a meat and fat pattern and a vegetable and fruit pattern. Interestingly, the meat and fat pattern diet was positively associated with development of skin cancer, and even more strongly associated in participants with a skin cancer history. Increased consumption of the vegetable and fruit dietary pattern reduced skin cancer occurrence by 54%, with the protective effect mostly attributed to the consumption of green, leafy vegetables. In conclusion, the researchers deemed that a dietary pattern characterized by high meat and fat intakes increases skin cancer odds, while a dietary pattern characterized by higher consumption of green vegetables decreases it. Bring on the green drinks, I say!
Looks like I will be beach ready this summer as I apply my natural, paraben-free sunscreen and continue relishing in my grilled veggies, large salads, fruits and that oh so delectable piece of dark chocolate.
*Some cocoa shipped to the United States is from West Africa, where child slavery is commonly practiced. Children are abducted from their families or sold for a pittance to cocoa farm owners and work 80-100 hour weeks without pay, much food, any education or contact with their families. Many of them are physically abused. You can easily avoid buying chocolate produced via these inhumane practices by only purchasing chocolate that has a Fair Trade certification label on it. LEARN MORE.
[i] Williams, S, Tamburic S, Lally C. Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. J of Cosmetic Dermatology 2009; 8(3):169-173.
[ii] Ibiebele TI, van der Pols JC, Hughes MC, et al. “Dietary pattern in association with squamous cell carcinoma of the skin: a prospective study.” Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 85(5):1401-8.
Talia Fuhrman, daughter of author Joel Fuhrman M.D., has a degree in nutritional sciences from Cornell University and is currently completing her chef’s degree at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. A health guru to her friends, Talia has always enjoyed teaching people about how to protect their health and hopes to write, lecture and cook delicious food now and into the future in order to help increasing numbers of people achieve ideal health and feel full of energy all while eating mouth-watering meals.