My wife and I are unconventional parents. We didn’t vaccinate our children. They don’t go to public school. We don’t let them drink their weight in soda. And we make them eat their sunscreen. Before you report me to Child Protective Services, let me assure you that I’m not talking about the conventional, synthetic sunblock that is loaded with poisons. I’m talking about edible sunblock in the form of carotenoids.

Carotenoids are members of a family of nutrients that protect plants and animals from excess sunshine. Just like melanin, they are colorful molecules that reflect UV rays. About 700 different types of carotenoids have been identified. Each of the pigments functions as Mother Nature’s sunblock. When humans ingest carotenoids, they are deposited into the skin to prevent sunburn and (ultimately) oxidative stress, which can lead to cancer.

Leading sources of carotenoids are eggs, spirulina, chlorella, dark-green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, and spinach), and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, and squash). The recommended daily intake of carotenoids is 100 to 200 grams per day of these foods.

The most potent carotenoid is a red pigment found in algae, salmon, trout, shrimp, and lobsters. It is known as astaxanthin. The algae are normally green. But when subjected to sunshine, they produce the red pigment naturally. Once ingested, astaxanthin is 1,000 times more effective at protecting skin from UV damage than other carotenoids.

Edible sunblock is your first line of defense against sunburn, cancer, and prematurely aging skin. So make sure you pack plenty of carotenoids in your kids’ lunchboxes this summer.

[Ed. Note: Getting more sunshine is just one way you can improve your health. With advice from best-selling author and organic chemist Shane Ellison, you can prevent or reverse health disasters like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. To learn how to feel better and live healthier, click here.

And get expert advice on how to get in shape, lose weight, and improve your overall health with ETR’s free health e-letter. Sign up here.]