Can you really get a natural-looking sunless tan without lotions or salon visits? Science says yes! According to a recent study, getting a golden tan may be as simple as a trip to the produce section of your supermarket (and far smarter than frying on the beach, but you already knew that). This British study found that people who ate the most fruits and vegetables had a golden hue that was rated healthier looking than when they had a sun tan.
"We already know that good nutrition plays a key role in keeping your skin looking great," says Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "This study fuels the theory even further." The reason: Good skin food like fresh produce is packed with antioxidant compounds known as carotenoids (beta-carotene in spinach, alpha-carotene in carrots, and lycopene in tomatoes). Not only do these plant chemicals keep your eyesight sharp, your immune system strong and protect against some kinds of cancer, they also help your skin look tan.
How? They improve your skin’s color. When you eat a lot of carotenoid-rich produce (think carrots and plums), many of those excess carotenoids are stored in the fat just beneath your skin, where their pigments peek through and give you a healthy glow that mimics a tan. In addition, they prevent wrinkles by crushing free radicals that damage your skin after you’ve spent too much time in the sun.
"Basking in the sun is a high price to pay for a little skin color," says Salge Blake. "But eating carotenoid-rich produce can give you the color you crave without the wrinkles." That said, you’ll have to be patient. It takes about two months of a produce-heavy diet to get a golden sunless tan. And adding a few carrots to your lunch won’t cut it. Experts recommend eating at least five servings of produce a day to get the effects.
Our suggestion: Give it a shot! You’ve got nothing to lose—except maybe a few extra pounds from filling up on low-calorie veggies.
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