If you braved a long and cold winter this past year, I’m sure you’re looking forward to the warm sun-filled days of summer. Chances are that as you put away your winter clothes and get your bathing suits out, you’ll notice that it’s a good time to get in shape for the coming season.
So today I am going to share with you three easy things you can do to prep your body and your bones for summer so you’ll feel and look your best. Let’s get started!
#1 – Get Your Skin Ready
How many times has this happened to you? It’s the first warm and sunny day of summer, and you stay outside a little too long and get a sunburn. Ouch! While moderate sun exposure is good – even essential – for your bones, sunburns are never a good idea.
Believe it or not, proper nutrition can make a big difference. Eating the right foods can protect your skin against sunburn and nourish your bones. And one compound found in abundance in colorful vegetables can do that and more.
Beta-Carotene: the “Sunscreen” Nutrient
Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, an important antioxidant that gives foods like carrots and bell peppers their bright yellow and orange colors. It’s also present in many dark green vegetables.
While no nutrient can give you complete protection from burning, beta-carotene is a great way to get your skin ready for the amount of sun exposure that can benefit your bones.
What’s the Best Way to Get More Beta-Carotene?
A meta-analysis of multiple beta-carotene studies shows that “beta-carotene supplementation protects against sunburn…protection required a minimum of 10 weeks of supplementation with a mean increase of the protective effect of 0.5 standard deviations with every additional month of supplementation. Thus, dietary supplementation of humans with beta-carotene provides protection against sunburn in a time-dependent manner.”1
The key lies in taking supplements or eating foods rich in beta-carotene consistently for a period of 10 weeks, and avoiding synthetic beta-carotene. These are foods with high beta-carotene content:
- Carrots (naturally!)
- Sweet potatoes
- Mustard Greens
- Turnip Greens
- Collard Greens
- Butternut Squash
Five servings daily of these and other foods high in beta-carotene for 10 weeks can help get your skin ready to take on healthy summer sun exposure.
More than Just a Skin Protectant
Beta-carotene does more than just protect your skin – it beautifies it, too. In fact, research has shown that beta-carotene can actually give your skin the look of a “tan.” Lead researcher Dr. Ian Stephen, from the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus says this:
“Most people think the best way to improve skin colour is to get a suntan, but our research shows that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is actually more effective.”2
So when you eat 5 servings daily of some of those healthful foods mentioned above, you’re not only helping your bones; you’re letting your beautiful diet show through your glowing skin!
#2 – Get Well Hydrated
The importance of drinking plenty of pure water cannot be overemphasized. I’ve written a great deal about the importance of water to your bone health. In fact, I devoted an entire week to this crucial subject! That’s because water is vital to the health of your bones and your whole body. How do you know if you’re getting enough?
Again with the Skin…
Your bones may be crying out for water, but the main indication may be on your skin. In fact, your skin is an excellent indicator of your state of hydration. This is because, when the body is deprived of water, it must ration it out among the body’s various systems.
The liver, kidneys, blood, brain, and digestive system take precedence – they get the available water first. Then what’s left (if any) goes to other body organs and systems, like the skin. If your body is rationing water, then, you’re going to start seeing it on the outside.
Medical professionals use this simple test to see if you’re dehydrated, and you can do it too: pinch up the skin on the back of your hand. Pull it upwards and then let it go. Does your skin snap back rapidly, or is it sluggish? Does it maintain the pinched shape? If the skin drops slowly or stays in the pinched-up shape, then you may be dehydrated.
So your skin, once again, is letting you know that something’s amiss in your body.
Your Bones Need Water
Drinking pure, distilled water helps create an alkaline environment in the body, and water is necessary to carry and deliver crucial nutrients, like calcium, to your bones. Water is involved in every cellular process, so it plays a vital role in bone remodeling.
#3 – Get Inspired to Look and Feel Your Best by Slimming Down
Wearing less clothing during the hot summer season is actually a good thing – it helps you achieve that healthy sun exposure mentioned above. After all, the more skin you expose to the sun, the better the benefits. But excess weight can make you uncomfortable about wearing more revealing clothing, thereby depriving you of that healthy sunlight.
But Won’t Excess Weight Help my Bones?
There’s a common misconception that excess weight will help build your bones. After all, isn’t it “weight-bearing exercise” that helps build bone? Yes, weight-bearing exercise is key to increasing bone density, but that weight needs to come from the action of gravity on your moving body, or from moderate exercise weights. If that weight comes from excess body fat, it actually harms your bones by increasing bone loss.
A study led by Harvard Medical School radiologist and assistant professor Dr. Miriam Bredella shows the connection between being overweight and having low bone density. Excess weight in the abdominal area – belly fat – is a particular culprit in stealing bone density. In the study, high levels of deep abdominal fat were directly correlated with lower bone mineral density. Interestingly, the subcutaneous fat – superficial fat or fat that’s just under your skin – was not shown to have the same negative effect on bone mineral density.3
Given that information about superficial fat, it’s important to remember that this isn’t about achieving a certain look. It’s not a competition. We are not all built the same, and how boring things would be if we all had the same body type and size! The key is to be the optimal weight for you.
I hope you’ll enjoy this summer as the very healthiest you!
1 Kopcke, W. and Krutmann, J. “Protection from sunburn with beta-Carotene—a meta-analysis.” Photochemistry and Photobiology. 2008 April. 84(2):284-8.
2 Ian D. Stephen, Vinet Coetzee, David I. Perrett. “Carotenoid and melanin pigment coloration affect perceived human health”☆☆☆. Evolution and Human Behavior, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.09.003
3 Bredella, Torriani, et al. “Musculoskeletal (Metabolic Conditions and Osteoporosis) Detrimental Effects of Visceral Obesity on Bone Health.” Radiological Society of North America. Presented on November 30th, 2010.