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Carrots, Butternut, Kale, Spinach Impart Healthy Glow

With days getting shorter and shorter (Winter Solstice is around the corner on December 21st), some are tempted to turn to tanning booths or spray tans to recapture the fading glow of sun-kissed skin. Fortunately, Mother Nature offers a far healthier way to alter skin tone toward a duskier hue — by eating plenty of beta-carotene-rich fruit and vegetables.

Previous research has demonstrated that a high intake of carotenoid-rich foods produces a condition called xanthoderma — and although that may not sound particularly attractive, a new study suggests that such produce-triggered skin coloration is actually perceived as youthful and healthy.  When British researchers presented 306 images of 51 Caucasian faces, ages ranging from 18 to 22, then asked volunteers to rate the various versions, those faces scored as most attractive had the ruddy hue that comes with beta-carotene intake.

Given the health risks associated with beta-carotene supplements, make sure to get your complexion-enhancing nutrients from these top whole-food sources:

Source Quantity Mcg
Sweet Potato, with skin  1 medium  13,210
Carrots, cooked  1 cup  12,998
Spinach, cooked  1 cup  11,318
Kale, cooked  1 cup  10,625
Carrots, raw  1 cup  10,108
Butternut Squash, cooked  1 cup  9,368
Collard Greens  1 cup  9,147
Cantaloupe  1 cup  3,232
Green Leaf Lettuce  2 cups  3,199
Red Bell Pepper  1 medium  1,933

Beyond enhancing skin tone, preliminary research suggests beta-carotene may boost bone health: Young women with the highest intake of beta-carotene-rich vegetables were 500% less likely to suffer low bone mass, in one Japanese study. British researchers also found a 50% lower risk of developing polyarthritis among those who ate the most orange-colored fruit and vegetables. In addition, beta-carotene plays a role in supporting healthy vision, maintaining immune function and protecting skin cells.

Published December 1, 2010

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