Antioxidants in certain foods -- green tea, olive oil, blueberries, salmon or sunflower seeds -- act like superhero nutrients in the body. They extinguish toxic oxygen molecules known as free radicals, the bad byproducts of cell renewal that are also produced by pollution and sun damage.
Antioxidants may turn out to be even more powerful defenders than we thought, and researchers are studying their potential as cancer fighters and UV protectors. Scientific studies seem to come out every day, touting the near-miraculous sun-protective and cancer- preventive benefits of antioxidant compounds in everything from pomegranates to red wine. The polyphenols in green tea have been proven to protect the DNA in skin cells in mice from UV damage, to protect skin against sunburns, and possibly to help prevent basal and squamous cell carcinomas. In a National Cancer Institute study done at the University of Illinois, the antioxidant compound resveratrol (found in cranberries, red wine, and grapes) inhibited the development of cancers in mice. (The antioxidant's beneficial effects on humans are still uncertain.) Antioxidant compounds found in pomegranates have also shown a great ability to inhibit tumor production and growth. A study published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that vitamin C and E supplements taken for three months significantly reduced sunburns and sun damage.