Eating more fruit and vegetables may not only boost an immune system and improve overall health, but also is a key to a rosier, healthier and more attractive skin color, a new study has found.
The scientists from the School of Psychology at the University of St. Andrew's in Scotland recruited 35 students, mostly white, and quizzed them on fruit and vegetable consumption over a period of 6 weeks. The participants were asked to fill out dietary questionnaires reporting exactly what they ate and how their diet changed. They also were asked not to use sunbeds, fake tan or any make-up during the experiment. Meanwhile, a special tool was used to record the skin tone of each volunteer before, during and after the study.
In a second part of the experiment, photographic images of four Caucasian faces, whose coloring was modified in order to correspond to varying levels of produce consumption, were shown to twenty-four observers. The observers, in turn, were asked to rate the faces based on perceived attractiveness and health. This way researchers tried to figure out how many servings of fruit and vegetables a day were associated with a noticeable improvement in complexion.
It was found that those students who reported consuming more fruits and vegetables than others, showed increases in red and yellow tones in their complexion. This suggests that skin color reflects better health and is due to the effect of carotenoids, the compounds that give plants their pigmentation, researchers explained. The carotenoids studied included beta-carotene and lycopene. Foods that are rich in beta-carotene are: carrots, yams, spinach, peaches, pumpkin and apricots. As to lycopene, it adds reddish color to peppers, watermelons, tomatoes and pink grapefruits.
In order to get the most benefits from fruit and vegetables, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends opting for whole plants instead of drinking juice. There are a lot of other beneficial compounds in the whole produce, including fiber, which is known for not only improving the skin color, but also contributes to an overall better health. It is strongly recommended that people fill half of their plate with fruit and vegetables at every meal. For women, the USDA recommends consuming between 1.5 to two cups of fruit and 2.5 to three cups of vegetables on a daily basis. As to men, their intake should aim for 2 to 2.5 cups of fruit and 3.5 to 4 cups of vegetables every day.
According to Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, our skin is a primary reflection of an overall general health. The healthier is skin, the better it functions and looks, and therefore, the more it can help the rest of the body function. And vise versa: the healthier is the rest of the body - more beautiful and healthier is skin.
The new findings are published in the March 7, 2012 edition of the online journal PLoS ONE.