You may have heard that eating nutritious foods can make your skin look healthier—but a new Scottish study shows certain foods can make your skin not just rosier, but also more sexually appealing to others!
To find out which foods can make your skin glow and how much you should eat, I did some investigating…
THE SEX APPEAL DIET—FOR MEN AND WOMEN
To start out with some basic, unaltered skin, researchers gathered a group of 35 male and female college students who hadn’t used makeup or self-tanning agents or been exposed to intensive UV rays for at least six weeks. Researchers gave subjects questionnaires to measure how many servings of fruits and vegetables they were consuming daily at the study’s start and then tracked any natural changes in their produce-eating habits that occurred over six weeks. In other words, subjects weren’t told to eat any more or any fewer fruits and veggies, said lead researcher Ross Whitehead, MSc, BSc, a PhD candidate in the school of psychology at University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Researchers studied changes only in fruit and vegetable consumption—not overall diets—because these foods are most likely to affect skin color in a perceptible way, said Whitehead. They also measured something called the “spectral reflectance changes” of the participants’ skin using different wavelengths of light. Basically, through that test, they were able to confirm that any changes in the look of the skin were happening due to the absorption of nutrients in fruits and veggies and not due to sun exposure.
Researchers had suspected that subjects would have to increase their consumption of fruits and veggies by a certain amount in order for others to notice a change in the color of their skin (more red and yellow hues) and find them more attractive. What they discovered is that without being guided, some subjects naturally increased their consumption of fruits and veggies during the study…some naturally decreased their consumption…and others ate the same amount as always. Findings: Those who naturally increased their consumption of fruits or veggies by at least three servings a day had a noticeable increase in pigmentation…those who didn’t change their produce consumption by three or more servings a day didn’t look noticeably different…and those who decreased their produce consumption became noticeably paler.
A second study asked a different set of undergrads to rate whether or not people who had more color in their faces due to eating more fruits and veggies looked healthier and more attractive. Researchers used a computer to manipulate photos of people so they could show what a face would look like if the person had increased his or her consumption of fruits and vegetables by three portions a day. (They didn’t use photos of people from the first study—they used different people whose expressions were blank, so smiling wouldn’t affect the results.) Photos simulating the higher intake of fruits and veggies were rated as healthier-looking and more attractive.
THE SECRET INGREDIENTS
Carotenoids, such as carotene and lycopene, are organic pigments that occur naturally in plants, and they are the magicians behind the skin transformation, said Whitehead. These compounds can be found in many bright red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (such as carrots, mangoes, apricots, sweet potatoes, papaya, bell peppers and tomatoes), and they’re also found in many dark green vegetables (such as kale, collard greens and spinach).
One limitation in the study worth noting is that only Caucasians were studied, so Whitehead isn’t sure whether the same effects hold true among people of color.
Whitehead said that it’s important to eat a balanced diet, including a little fat, along with your fruits and veggies for the best chance of receiving the skin color benefits. “It’s key to have at least a little fat in your daily diet, since carotenoids and other vitamins and minerals are transported in the blood exclusively in fatty proteins,” he said. Any type of fat will do, he explained, though unsaturated is better for you. How much fat depends on your personal caloric intake, said Whitehead, and you don’t have to eat the fat simultaneously with the fruit or vegetable, but you can. For example, try drizzling a teaspoon of olive oil over broccoli spears or smearing a teaspoon of peanut butter onto slices of an apple. Yum!