I used to chuckle when I heard moms urge their daughters to eat tomatoes for rosy cheeks. Old wives' tale, so, I thought, and by that logic would I turn greener with kale? I was a little less sure of my dismissiveness when my own palms turned an orangey tint when I went heavy on my carrots, and was totally humbled when I met my first pink flamingoes.
Beauty from the garden’s bounty
A study in the scientific journal PLoS ONE followed 35 students for 6 weeks looking at how fruit and veggie intake affects skin tone, as measured by a spectrophotometer (an instrument that measures the spectrum and photometric intensity of each wavelength present, and in this case of visible light).
The researchers, led by Ross Whitehead, found that measured skin tone correlated with reported changes in the diet: eating more fruits and veggies increased skin redness and yellowness, and these skin color changes where achieved with a relatively modest increase of fruit and veggie intake – adding about 4 servings did the trick.
In a second part of the study, the researchers asked 24 students to rank face’s health appearance and attractiveness when these faces were manipulated to take on the hue change seen under low fruit and veggie diet as opposed to a fruit and veggie rich one.
The experiments showed that the faces with the skin color associated with high fruits and veggie intake were perceived as more appealing and vibrant.
I bet you’re wondering how long and how much it takes to get the golden carrot and tomato glow. Not that much and not that long -- it took 3-4 additional fruits and veggie servings a day and just a few weeks to look measurably more attractive in the eyes of undergraduate students.
Carotenoids and blood perfusion
This study, and others before it, show that we prefer rosy, slightly flushed, lightly yellow-toned skin -- perhaps because it sends a signal of healthfulness -- and pigments from the fruit and vegetables in our diet seem to impart just the right tone to our complexion.
Fruit and veggie pigments, such as lycopene and carotenoids, make their way into the skin and change its hue. Fruits and veggies may also change skin’s blood perfusion.
We are what we eat, and food affects health in a profound way. There are many reasons to eat your veggies, but if you find the beauty-from-a-tomato argument effective, I’d consider this study support to use it as needed.