This isn't rocket science. What you put into your body is just as important as what you put on your body (if not more so). When you eat foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, this leads to healthier and stronger hair, nails and skin. And according to Dr. Susan Stuart, a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego, eating lots of fruits and vegetables that are yellow or orange in color can give you a natural tan.
"Skin superfoods" such as carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe have a very potent antioxidant called carotene. When you eat multiple servings of these fresh produce, it warms up your natural skin tone. "Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale also contain large quantities of beta-carotene and are also responsible for affecting one's skin pigmentation," said Dr. Stuart. "Therefore, consuming regular quantities of these vegetables will also create a natural tan."
Dr. Stuart backs up this claim with a 2011 study conducted by Dr. Stephen at the University of Nottingham in the UK which involved a group of students who were asked to consume fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotenes for several months.
"The results indicated that consuming several extra portions of fruits and vegetables daily could result in increased skin pigmentation due to naturally occurring chemicals called carotenes. These findings were similar to those obtained with mild tanning of the skin in these study patients," said Dr. Stuart.
So how much of these "tanning" foods do you have to chow down on for a Victoria's Secret model-worthy glow?
"No one knows how long or how much of these tanning foods must be consumed to see results," said Dr. Stuart. "The study at the University of Nottingham involved college students who were asked to consume extra quantities of fruits and vegetables over several months but a specific time frame or quantity was not specified."
Dr. Stuart explained that "the biggest misconception about eating your way to a natural tan is that one's ability to tan with certain foods is variable and influenced by one's underlying skin type which is determined by skin pigmentation and genetics."
But eating excessive amounts of foods rich in beta-carotene can have negative effects too, namely a skin disorder called carotenemia. "This is a yellow discoloration of the skin which involves the skin of the body including the palms and soles of the feet," said Dr. Stuart. "It may be mistaken for jaundice, a serious medical condition. However, carotenemia is a benign skin condition that is completely reversible once you stop consuming large quantities of vegetables rich in beta-carotene."
Here's Dr. Stuart's natural tan superfood guide:
- Carrots. When carrots are consumed regularly (and in moderation), the skin adapts a more natural and healthy-looking hue.
- Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and apricots. Like carrots, these carotenoid rich fruits and veggies improve your skin’s color while providing other health benefits.
- Spinach and kale. These dark, leafy greens should definitely be a staple in your diet, as well as broccoli, as they are the secret to glowing skin.
- Olive Oil. Although olive oil doesn’t contain any carotenoids, antioxidants and omega-3s, it will give your skin a moisture boost for a healthier appearance.
Dr. Stuart's last words of advice? "In general, it is wise to eat healthy portions of fresh fruits and vegetables in one's daily diet for a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis. Many of these fruits and vegetables also contain powerful antioxidants which may have a protective effect on human cells and reduce some signs of aging."
Would you rather eat "orange-y" foods, lay out in the sun or smooth on self-tanner?
Maybe these celebs should try this natural tan diet:
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