Could Eating Beets Turn You Red?

Fruits and vegetables adds color and healthy attractiveness to your complexion

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Feeling blue? Perhaps you need an apple or two. Looking green? Maybe you need to eat more greens. Turns out, eating fruits and vegetables may literally add color to your skin.

A new study reveals that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with more redness and yellowness in people's skin colors. So rosy cheeks may be only a couple fruit salads away.

"Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet daily."

Lead authors of the study, Ross Whitehead and David Perrett, both of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, wanted to find out whether a person's fruit and vegetable consumption might affect their skin color.

They tracked how many fruits and vegetables a group of 35 mostly Caucasian participants, ranging in age from 18 to 25, ate over a six week period. Their skin color was recorded at the start of the study, at the halfway point, and at the end. Participants did not use make-up, self-tanning agents or extensive exposure to UV light.

During the study period, the participants filled out questionnaires that included questions about how much fruit and vegetable intake they had, excluding potatoes. Their skin color and reflectance was measured with a tool called a spectrophotometer.

Turns out, the ones chomping on the most amount of plant food ended up with more red and yellow color in their complexions - which also made them appear healthier and more attractive.

The association occurred specifically with an intake of carotenoids, natural pigments that occur in the cells of plants and provide a source of vitamin A. Foods with high levels of carotenoids include carrots, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, kale and sweet potatoes.

To measure the increase in consumers' looking healthy or attractive, the researchers used photo editing software to adjust the color of 30 participants, half of whom ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and half of whom ate only a little. The groups were matched in terms of age, gender, amount of weekly exercise and body mass index.

Next, the researchers created 22 images of each person's face with varying amounts of redness and yellowness. The person's real complexion was the middle image. They showed these images in a darkened booth with sunlight-colored lighting to volunteers who rated the images in terms of their apparent yellowness, how healthy they looked and how attractive they looked.

The results, the authors wrote, "the skin-color changes associated with fruit and vegetable consumption is seen as healthy and attractive, and is detectable at a relatively modest level of dietary change."

They calculated that it takes just about three additional portions of fruits or vegetables each day to gain the benefits of looking healthier and more good-looking.

Because most of the participants in this study were Caucasian, additional research might reveal how fruit and vegetable consumption might affect the complexions of people of different ethnicities.

The study was published online March 7 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and by the corporation Unilever Research and Development USA.

The only competing interest reported by the authors was the study's funding by Unilever, which had no role in the study's design, data collection or analysis.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 7, 2012
Last Updated:
March 7, 2012