Protect Your Skin with This Healthy Candy
The best 100-calorie splurge this summer may be a little candy indulgence that acts like built-in sunscreen: dark chocolate.
Yep, in a recent study, people who snacked on a tiny bit -- just 100 calories -- of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate every day seemed to be more protected from ultraviolet (UV) radiation by the end of the 12-week study.
Cacao's Tough Side
For the study, researchers made a special dark chocolate with extra flavonoids. And to measure the impact that this chocolate had on skin's vulnerability to UV, researchers noted how long it took people's skin to burn from UV exposure both before and after the chocolate test period. And after 12 weeks of the chocolate, people appeared to need twice as much UV exposure to get a sunburn compared with how long it took at the beginning of the experiment. Researchers suspect that the chocolate helped protect skin thanks to the extra-healthy compounds in the sweet stuff -- like epicatechins, catechins, procyanidins, and other flavonoids. These healthful compounds may boost circulation in small capillaries in the skin, making skin cells healthier and keeping them cooler. These compounds also act like antioxidants, guarding against damage from the sun's harmful rays. (Related: Find the best solution for your skin care problems.)
Summer Skin Savvy
So, a couple caveats to the chocolate story. First, chocolate labels don't list flavonoid content. To get the most flavonoids from commercial chocolate, choose a dark variety to nibble on -- one that contains at least 70% cacao, because cacao is the stuff that has all those helpful flavonoids. Also, chocolate made with cold -- rather than heat or Dutch process -- manufacturing methods may have more flavonoids, since heat destroys these helpful compounds. Second, don't eat too much, or you'll end up saving your skin at the expense of your waist. Finally, eating a bit of dark chocolate is not a replacement for smart skin protection. It's merely a potential on add-on step you can take in addition to using sunscreen, covering up, and staying out of the sun during peak UV hours. Here are some other essential tips for protecting your skin from the sun.
- Choose a good sunscreen and wear it every day. Discover what sunscreen is right for your skin type by taking this quiz.
- Don't skimp. Find out the surprising amount of sunscreen that's recommended for best results.