A few weeks ago I wrote about the dangers of sun exposure in my post about metastatic cancers. However, many faithful tanners know about these dangers and continue their liberal worship of the sun. I have to agree that the warmth of the sun is an indulgent feeling and one that I seek out. However, the warmth of the sun is only part of the goal for these chronic tanners. Many people want that sun-kissed look and prior to the turn of the millennium, the only way to get this look was through tanning. Modifying sun exposure behavior took a big leap when suitable (“consumer-worthy”) alternatives to tanning were developed, such as spray-tans and tinted lotions. And now, in 2012, there is a new alternative! Well, really it has been here for millennia. Fruits and vegetable! These wonders of the plant world can provide you with that healthy glow!
I could have told you this years ago, as one of my sisters and her family eat a gargantuan amount of carrots (and other veggies) every year, and they have the healthy orange (tan) glow to prove it. The palms of their hands and the bottoms of their feet are particularly orangey! But now there is research to back up my claim. A small study out of Scotland published online last week in the journal, PLos One, looked at 35 individuals who did not use self-tanners and who did not have recent intensive UV exposure. Skin color measurements and daily fruit and vegetable consumption were taken at three points over a six-week period. The researchers conclude that increased fruit and vegetable consumption confer measurable and perceptibly beneficial effects on Caucasian skin appearance within six weeks.
The secret is in the carotenoids, or the yellow-orange pigments abundant in fruits and vegetables. Think of the orange in carrots. Aside from imparting a healthy glow, carotenoids are also important to the health of your skin, by serving as antioxidants which protect all layers of your skin, such as reducing your skin’s UV sensitivity. So not only is there a “superficial” benefit but you also get a real health benefit. Furthermore, when you eat more fruits and veggies in order to achieve that sun-kissed look, you are modifying your sun exposure habits by reducing your desire to tan. And let’s not forget that you are increasing your vegetable and fruit intake which has many other health benefits.
Whitehead RD, Re D, Xiao D, Ozakinci G and Perrett DI. (March 2012). “You Are What You Eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes.” In PLoS ONE, 7:3, e32988-e32988.