Healthy living

Want a healthy glow? Eat more veggies

fruit and veg Antioxidants give you golden skin colour

Instead of reaching for the fake tan or heading for the sun, new research suggests the best way to obtain a healthy glow is to eat more fruit and vegetables.

"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," said Dr Ian Stephen at the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham.

The team of researchers found that people who eat more portions of fruit and vegetables per day have a more golden skin colour, due to compounds called carotenoids.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that help soak up damaging compounds produced by the stresses and strains of everyday living, especially when the body is combating disease. They are also responsible for the red colouring in fruit and vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes, and are important for our immune and reproductive systems.

The researchers also found that the healthy glow obtained through eating fruit and vegetables was regarded as more attractive than having a tan.

"We found that, given the choice between skin colour caused by suntan and skin colour caused by carotenoids, people preferred the carotenoid skin colour, so if you want a healthier and more attractive skin colour, you are better off eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables than lying in the sun," said Dr Stephen.

The study findings are important as they suggest that evolution favours people who choose to form alliances or mate with healthier individuals over unhealthy individuals, Dr Stephen explained.

Professor David Perrett, at the University of St Andrews, said: "This is something we share with many other species. For example, the bright yellow beaks and feathers of many birds can be thought of as adverts showing how healthy a male bird is.

"What's more, females of these species prefer to mate with brighter, more coloured males. But this is the first study in which this has been demonstrated in humans."

The findings are published in Journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.

This article was published on Wed 12 January 2011

Image © University Nottingham

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