By Caroline Young Bearden, MS, RD, LD, RYT
Spring is in the air: blooming flowers, morning birdsong, al fresco dining, and more daylight, which inevitably leads to more time in the sun.
Have you thought about how you will take care of your skin as you spend more of your days outside?
Maybe it’s sunscreen, an umbrella, protective clothing or a wide-brimmed hat – all essential tools.
But what about food?
It’s true -- you may be able to help protect the body’s largest organ – your skin – through your diet.
Get your antioxidants.
When your skin is exposed to sun and UV radiation, the rate of the skin’s oxidation increases, which means harmful substances called free radicals increase. Plus, oxidation increases conditions related to the aging process. Since fat-soluble vitamins A, and E are ANTI-oxidants, they help to deactivate free radicals, which are caused by environmental forces like the sun. 
You can get vitamin E from foods like peanuts, peanut butter and spinach. In fact, one ounce of peanuts and ½ cup cooked spinach provide 10 percent of the daily recommended value (DV) of vitamin E and 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter provides 15 percent of the DV.
And your vitamin D.
Vitamin D, which is created after the sun hits the skin, is another fat-soluble vitamin (so it also needs fat for proper absorption!). There are very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, and they include fatty fish like salmon and tuna and fish liver oils. You can also get small amounts in beef liver and egg yolks. However, most people get their vitamin D from fortified foods and beverages, such as milk, orange juice or breakfast cereals. And most people meet at least some vitamin D needs through sun exposure. But how much is enough? It’s hard to say and there are no concrete recommendations for sun exposure and vitamin D. But researchers have suggested that just 5 to 30 minutes in the sun, between 10 am and 3 pm, twice per week without sunscreen will give you enough. If you don’t get out in the sun often, make sure to get vitamin D through your diet and talk to your healthcare team about taking a vitamin D supplement.
But Don’t O.D. on UV Rays. While you need some sun to get your D fix, be mindful of how much. The rise in skin cancer over the years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is directly related to time spent outside. And diet cannot serve as a substitute to your other skin protection measures, including seeking shade when UV rays are the most intense (between 10 am and 4 pm), using sunscreen with at least SPF 15 (re-applied every couple of hours) and wearing a wide-brim hat, protective clothing, and sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection.
Load up on good fats. Fat will also help you maintain healthy skin (and also your hair). And, in order to absorb the above fat-soluble vitamins, you need, well … fat! 
 Antioxidants:In Depth. National Institutes of Health:National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm. Updated May 4, 2016. Accessed April 6, 2017.
 Vitamin E. National Institutes of Health:Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/#h3. Updated November 3, 2016. Accessed April 6, 2017.
 Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health:Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/ . Updated April 31, 2016. Accessed April 6, 2017.
 Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health:Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ . Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed April 6, 2017.
 Dietary Fats Explained. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000104.htm. Reviewed August 22, 2016. Accessed April 6, 2017.