If you have ever wondered if there was a real fountain of youth or some deep, dark secret to lasting good looks, think about how you passed on those fruits and veggies when you were younger that your mom kept trying to get you to eat.
That's because, according to a new study, five portions daily of fruits and vegetables can give your skin a glow, hence making you appear more attractive.
Scientists have discovered that the yellow-red pigmentation in produce can be absorbed by fat deposits in skin, thus giving it a healthier hue. Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain found that eating just two additional portions of fruit and veggies per day would bring about a noticeable change in skin color within six weeks.
"Most of us know we should eat plenty of fruit and veg, yet we are not sufficiently motivated to actually go ahead and eat a healthy diet," Ross Whitehead, who led the research, said, according to the Daily Telegraph.
"We hope that by highlighting the rapidly achievable benefits of a healthy diet on our attractiveness will be a stronger incentive for people to eat more healthily," he continued. "Knowing you are going to look more attractive in a few weeks may be more persuasive than the promise of health benefits later in life."
Additional testing found that folks who ate large helpings of produce regularly were rated more attractive than people who only ate small amounts.
And while the study didn't necessarily prove any additional health benefits - over and above those that are already known about consuming fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet - the findings were sure to "feed" our vanity, which is likely to be enough for some folks to change their eating habits.
Building on the research
This study isn't the first one that has tied the consumption of produce to having a better overall appearance.
In 2009, researchers from St. Andrews and Bristol universities first discussed the cosmetic benefits of fruits and vegetables.
"This discovery is very exciting and has given us a promising lead into cues to health," said Prof. David Perrett, from the perception laboratory at St. Andrews University.
"The only natural way in which we can make our skin lighter and more yellow is to eat a more healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables," he added. "What we eat and not just how much we eat appears to be important for a healthy appearance."
Then, as now, Dr. Ian Stephen from Bristol University, a study co-author, recommended eating five portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
"It is really the same message about health eating, but just for different reasons, for your skin tone, instead of for other health benefits," he said.
Slightly flushed appearances, indicating more oxygen in the blood, also portray health, the researchers said.
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The 2009 research was confirmed a few years later, in 2011, when scientists from both universities said that eating carrots and plums can make you more attractive, again because carotenoids in certain produce can give your skin a glowing, yellow hue.
Stephen said telling people that eating more healthy fruits and vegetables could make them look better could be a better strategy than talking to them about the gloom-and-doom aspect of an unhealthy diet.
"Telling people they might have a heart attack in 40 years' time if they don't eat more healthily is one thing. What we can do is say, 'This is what you could look in a couple of months if you increased your fruit and veg intake,'" he said.
Besides just looking better and healthier, people who eat more produce can actually be healthier because such foods contain powerful antioxidants which help the body to fight disease, researchers say.