Natural Suntanning and Sunburn Prevention and Relief

aloh veraRodale News reported recently on foods that can (a) prevent sunburn, and (b) treat sunburn.

I love to slather fresh aloe vera on it.

(Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you must have an aloe plant in your house. They are succulents and hard to kill. I’ve had mine for 15 years. Every time I burn my finger in the kitchen or get a sunburn, I cut off a stem and slice it in half. It cools, relieves pain, and helps a burn not bubble and peel. Usually the next day, it’s become a tan for me.)

Vit_D-SunI was very pale and never tanned, as a child. Because I’m in the sun constantly now, due to running, tennis, and being a baseball mom, my skin has learned how to tan. We need 20 minutes of sun, daily, as often as possible, for Vitamin D, which is the #1 correlate to cancer risk. High Vita D correlates to low cancer risk. After you’ve been in the sun, don’t shower for several hours, if possible. Otherwise you wash off the substance on your skin that your body converts to Vitamin D.

But because I drink fresh-made juice with carrots and beets and lots of greens and alkaline veggies (celery, cucumbers), I also don’t burn much any more. The red and orange pigments in beets and carrots not only color my skin to mimic a tan, but they also act as a natural preventative against sunburn.

The Rodale News report said these help, too:

  1. Dark Chocolate: high-cacao content is key. Will Clower, PhD, author of Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, suggests eating 70 grams a day of 70-percent cacao. It doubles the amount of UV that is required to get a sunburn!
  2. Eating organic tomatoes protect your skin against sun damage. In one study, those who ate 5 Tbsp of tomato paste daily for 3 months enjoyed 25 percent more protection against sunburn.
  3. White vinegar is a good topical, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug. It will kill the pain for 20 minutes.
  4. Blend up a cucumber and apply it to the skin, mixed with glycerine for sun protection, or soothing protection.
  5. Pomegranates are rich in ellagic acid, which protects skin against UVA- and UVB-induced cell damage. They are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. Eat them in the summer!
  6. Green tea (one of my favorite occasional drinks in hot weather) is high in catechin compounds that help protect against the sun’s harmful radiation. The used tea bags are good on the skin for sunburn relief, too.
  7. Oatmeal soothes a sunburn. You can grind it up and put it in the bathtub. I got my kids through the chicken pox with oatmeal baths, which calmed them considerably.

physical-chemicalFinally, get a physical sunblock cream instead of the chemical sunscreens in the mass market, which are highly toxic. Green Screen is one brand sold in health food stores that doesn’t use carcinogenic chemicals.

The physical sunblock creams don’t “rub in” easily and can have a white sheen on the skin for a little while after application. (You can buy a tinted product, too.)But I think it’s possible that chemical sunscreens cause as much cancer as sunburns do, in some cases. (They have many chemicals added that are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. And, they absorb into your bloodstream, so they’re metabolized just like food!)



Anti-nutrients? Are you letting them scare you off whole foods?….Part 3 of 3

Oxalates in greens? It’s another tempest in a teapot. Please show me the clinical data that healthy people need to limit oxalate-rich food. I’ve seen none. Only claims, passed around the internet. Hypothyroidism does not dictate that we avoid this very important, phenomenally nutritious class of vegetables and greens.

Goitrogens in broccoli, cabbage, kale? Let’s use some common sense. Let’s say a food has sustained human life for thousands of years, and dozens or even hundreds of studies show it to be dramatically healthy. (I’m referring to broccoli, cabbage, and kale—the crucifers.) Let’s say we break down the many complex parts of the broccoli plant, and we find one that, when chemically isolated, is harmful.

We might do well to trust that the synergy in 100 different co-factors in that food are time-tested. How can you do a study to show that the complex interplay of factors in a powerful plant food yields long life and superior energy for humans? Scientists want to parse and isolate. If they find the heavy-hitter nutrient, they might be able to put it in a pill. Altered slightly, it might be patentable and worth $1 billion.

I’m not saying that natural, food-based supplements have no value. But nothing is going to come close to the synergistic, nearly incomprehensible effects of the plants they were derived from. The impact of the aloe vera plant on digestion, and burn healing….it’s nearly inestimable. You know this if you’ve ever cut a stalk off your aloe vera plant and applied it to a sunburn, which then doesn’t peel, and feels dramatically better, and is gone the next day. (Or if you put a stalk of your aloe vera in your green smoothie, watch what it does to your digestion that day, WOW.)

Whole plant foods are dramatically helpful  for us to fuel a long, vibrant life. When you dig to the bottom of these “tempests in a teapot” controversies about anti-nutrients, you invariably learn that research shows the “anti-nutrient” to be neutral or even helpful to normal, healthy humans.

If you’ve read this blog series and are now going to avoid whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, or apple seeds, you’ve missed the point entirely. Whatever OTHER food you eat instead of that whole plant food—animal flesh, or packaged foods—has far worse than an anti-nutrient or two. They have heat-damaged carcinogenic oils, no fiber, refined sugar, chemicals from solvents and preservatives and flavor enhancers and packaging and colorings.

You’re simply far better off eating whole foods. Virtually always.

Dear GSG: Why is the media always telling us one thing and then the opposite about nutrition?

Answer: I know it’s frustrating.   I get this gripe all the time, and some people use it to dismiss all information about nutrition altogether and just eat whatever tastes good: “they don’t know what they’re talking about anyway.”

Well, by “they” (first they tell us one thing, then another), we mean science, right?   Science is always evolving, always learning new things.   The perfect example is what is happening in research recently regarding sunshine and Vitamin D.

You grew up, like me, being told not to get in the sun because it causes skin cancer.   We were taught that sunscreen was our friend, and we slathered it on.   Well, I didn’t, but everyone else did.   I felt guilty.   But I cannot stand the stuff–I have a phobia of it, really.   I can’t even stand to touch it to put it on my children.   Just a weird little neurosis (they learned early to put it on themselves, and of course I used the sprays on them).

Now many studies–not just one or two–tell us that getting enough sun exposure is actually critical for cancer defense and immunity. That if we can’t get in the sun close to year-round, we should take 5,000 mg. of Vitamin D supplementation daily.

The reason we get different information is that we’re post-Information Age, constantly getting new data. It’s a GOOD thing. But we have to be smart enough to sift through data–the good, the bad, and the dubious. The dubious, set it aside until you receive further data to support or contradict it. The bad, realize that lots of “research” has a profit motive and doesn’t deserve your attention. With Vitamin D and the sun, to refer back to my example, it’s becoming an avalanche of empirical evidence pointing in the same direction–that sunshine is good for us. (Sunshine, not sunburn.)

Any other issues you’re confused about, I’d be happy to talk about. Or research, if I don’t know enough about it yet.

Green Smoothie testimonials, part 12

After a year of thinking and searching deeply about going vegetarian, I took the leap in September of ’08. What made the transition easy was the discovery of the green smoothie!I first heard of them on Robyn’s informative website, was intrigued and investigated the origins of green smoothies and started to find whole blogging communities who were drinking these liquid vegetable treats. I viewed many of the YouTube videos Robyn had posted and saw how simple it was to get my veggies the green smoothie way.I started right away, using my simple kitchen blender.My 11 y.o. son and my husband were curious and started drinking them with me almost immediately.We LOVE them!

The chronic eczema around edges of my scalp are clearing up (some are completely gone!), ridges in my fingernails are flattening out and nails have become hard, chronic tiredness has been replaced with vibrant energy, mild arthritic symptoms in fingers vanished, hypothyroid symptoms growing less (although I’m on a low dose of Armour and have been for years, I still experience many of the hypothyroid symptoms – but they are really improving!), insomnia seems to be vanquished, I’ve lost 9 lbs so far, and I don’t know if this could be related but I no longer sunburn!

But what is truly amazing is that I’m growing in streaks of brown hair where it was solid silver before-fabulous!

We are experiencing great health benefits from these marvelous drinks and I think we may be addicted to the vibrancy and high energy kick we get from them.I’ll be getting results from a blood test next week and I can’t wait to see the numbers! I’ve turned several friends and family members into green smoothie drinkers and am actually pursuing a radio show where I will be able to discuss and share my progress with others.Thank you Robyn for GreenSmoothieGirl blogs!Your generosity in sharing your info with the world has inspired so many to move towards health!


I love them, I love green smoothies anyway, and I love your recipes the best. It is so good to have mainly greens and a few fruits instead of the other way around as I was previously doing. I love them and my kids do also. They crave them as I do.


Research Results: Green Smoothies Change Lives [part 2 of 2]

Other positive health benefits reported by survey respondents include these:

3 people said: Hyperthyroid condition improved (reduced or gone off meds)

2 people said: Seasonal allergies gone or decreased

2 people said: Reduced asthma symptoms

7 people said: Arthritis symptoms/pain gone or reduced

2 people said: Migraines gone or reduced by 80 percent

2 people said: acne improved or gone

2 people said: eczema or dry skin cleared

Decreased blood pressure

No more hypertension

Was able to go off cholesterol meds

Was able to go off Prilosec

Haven’t gotten sick in a year like I always do

Moles disappeared

Deep facial wrinkles “barely noticeable”

Less nasal congestion

Lump on leg getting smaller

Liver spots fading

Tendonitis gone

Muscle soreness gone

Hypoglycemia improved

No more bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation

Avoided a hysterectomy, lifelong menstrual problems returned to normal

Easier to breastfeed

Don’t sunburn any more

Grey hair returned to original dark color

Depression symptoms gone

Lifelong bad breath gone in two weeks

Ended coffee addiction

Just feel better


The risks of a new green smoothie habit are limited to an 18.5 percent chance of a short-term, uncomfortable cleansing reaction.   The top six benefits that people experience when starting a green smoothie habit are, in order, more energy, improved digestion, fewer cravings for sweets and processed food, a more positive/stable mood, improved skin, and weight loss.


It’s hard to look at this data without being compelled to give green smoothies a try!

eating healthy while traveling

I’m back from a fun trip down south for a baseball tournament in the sun.   I tried a tip from a woman who attended my nutrition class the night before I left–to use coconut oil instead of sunscreen.   She says it works.   (It seems rather counterintuitive–isn’t coconut oil in tanning lotions used to accelerate tanning?   But I’d read that same advice somewhere else, so it seemed worth a try.)

Well, I got a little burned anyway.   Maybe I shouldn’t have sat out with my coconut-oiled face, for THREE HOURS from 11:00 to 2:00?!   But it’s been a long winter, and I was looking forward to some sun.

So I can’t tell you coconut oil is  a miracle sunscreen.   But I was so busy, I had to fly out the door with my two sons, without doing any food prep like I usually do for a trip.   We grabbed a bag of sprouted teriyaki almonds I’d made for the nutrition class, a bag of those sweet-potato spears from Costco, and that’s ALL.   It was an adventure in finding decent nutrition on the road without the advantage of advance planning.

I found a place called Jimmy John’s (a sandwich franchise) down there.   They have a 7-grain bread and a veggie sandwich featuring alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and a homemade avocado sauce. Not too bad, and pretty filling.

Subway is our standby as “fast food” on trips. Here’s what you do: get the “wheat” bread and order a Veggie Delite.   Tell the teenaged employee to put on LOTS of cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, and shredded carrots.   If you’re lucky, they’ll have spinach, though I didn’t see any at the Subways we visited on this trip.   Skip the iceburg and load up on the nutrient-dense veggies.   For a sauce, we just do brown mustard.

Then, your sandwich lies there, open, looking a little skimpy.   The “sandwich artist” awaits further orders.   Do not, in the interest of being polite, leave with that skimpy sandwich.   You say, can I have a bunch more tomatoes?   Thanks!   And how about a lot more cucumbers?   (Go through the whole vegetable lineup again if necessary.   Smile and use ALL your chatty charisma so as to not completely annoy them.)   When your sandwich is piled high with veggies, they manage to squeeze it shut and package it up for you, and you get a rather nutritious meal—though I recommend the 12-inch to make it filling enough!

 I stopped at a grocery store and got Grape Nuts (actually the store brand, because it was cheaper and didn’t contain soy lecithin).   We also got a couple boxes of Rice Dream, some bananas to put on top, and plastic bowls and spoons.   That was breakfast for four days.   I got a bag of apples for snacks.

I still wish I’d made two blenderfuls of GS and put it in a cooler like I’d planned (you can always use the hotel’s ice if your room doesn’t have a mini-fridge).   But we did okay!

Next up, I’m off to fill plastic Easter eggs with carob raisins, and hide them,  for the kids.   Happy Easter to y’all!