By Ashlyn Heller
It's the classic summertime struggle: you want to get a tan, but you also want to avoid harmful UV rays. Once again, this is where the right food can save the day!
From skin cancer to advanced aging, the sun has become an enemy you must always keep your eye on. Yet most of us love the way we look with a perfect, golden summer tan — which brings us to the good news...
Adding certain fruits and veggies to your diet can actually give your skin a glow that resembles a beach-made tan. And according to science, you'll look way better than all your friends who exposed their skin to the sun. A recent study at Leeds University found that subjects who had a natural tan produced by a diet rich in certain vitamins and minerals were ranked "more attractive" than those with a tan from the sun.
What's behind this effect? The study distinguishes between two types of skin coloration: "carotenoid" coloration and "melanin" coloration. Melanin coloration is the tan you get from the sun while carotenoid coloration is the tan you get from eating certain fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids. So, load up on the SPF — and these foods loaded with carotenoids and other amazing nutrients — to get a healthy, ageless summer glow! And be sure to avoid these 20 Foods That Age You 20 Years so that you don't undo all your good efforts!
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the most versatile veggies. From fries to pies, sweet potatoes can be used for almost anything in the kitchen. But did you know they can also be used to tan your skin? Sweet potatoes have the highest levels of carotenoids compared to all other vegetables, the nutrient responsible for that natural tan effect. And if this isn't enough to make your heart throb, sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, which are important for boosting heart health. For ideas on how to incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet, be sure to check out our list of sweet potato recipes!
Alright, nothing new here. Carrots have always been known for altering skin color but they won't turn you orange, contrary to popular belief. Instead, their high levels of carotenoids will give you that perfect, sun-kissed glow that everyone is after. They also have loads of vitamin A, which can improve eyesight and protect your skin from sun damage. Just one medium carrot provides you with 200% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A—making carrots a win-win for you and your skin!
By this point, you've probably been told a million times that kale is one of the most nutrient dense greens out there and that it has crazy good benefits for your whole body. While we'll spare you the extensive list, there is one lesser-known advantage of kale that relates to how you look. Yep, you guessed it: Kale also has high levels of carotenoids that enhance skin tone. So, as if there weren't already a million reasons to add kale to your diet, we're giving you yet another reason to go green.
As the summer months heat up, people become more conscious about staying hydrated. Thankfully, if you're not a water lover, you can pick up a tasty piece of fruit to get some much-needed H20. Cantaloupe, in particular, can help you out in the summer months with its high water and electrolyte content. The melon is about 90% water, and it gets its orange color from the carotenoids in the meat. So, to avoid the dehydrating and skin-burning effects of the sun, grab a slice of cantaloupe. And for more ways to stay hydrated this summer, check out our 50 best detox water for fat burning and weight loss.
Citrus fruits aren't the only place you can get your daily dose of vitamin C. Did you know that one cup of broccoli has more than double the amount of vitamin C than one whole lemon? Vitamin C is important for protecting against immune deficiencies as well as boosting collagen production which helps the body to heal wounds quickly. So, the combination of carotenoids and vitamin C in broccoli can both improve the color and function of your skin, making this veggie another way to help you appear kissed by the sun.
When you think of pumpkins you probably think of jack-o-lanterns and Halloween. But when your tan starts to fade in October, you can fight back and eat your pumpkin instead of displaying it on your front porch. Along with the skin-enhancing carotenoids in this fall veggie, there are also high levels of fiber per calorie. Fiber has been proven to aid digestion and help you feel fuller longer. This makes pumpkins a great weight loss tool as well as self-tanner!
Spinach is that leafy green that probably made your face scrunch up as a child—but we have a feeling you'll be eating it by the handful when you hear about its skin-tinting effects. Spinach is rich in those tan-producing carotenoids while also packing heaps of vitamin K into its leaves. Vitamin K regulates blood clotting in veins and arteries as well as promoting bone health. For strong bones, proper blood flow, and even better skin, add some of these leaves to your next meal.
You know what they say: A mango a day can get the tan lines to stay! This tart tropical fruit can be found on every smoothie menu across the nation and for good reason. Not only is it full of tan-boosting carotenoids, mangos have antioxidants (like quercetin, astragalin, and gallic acid) that have been proven to prevent colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemia.
9. Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers get their vibrant color from carotenoids, but eating them won't turn your skin red. These carotenoids function the same way they do in all other vegetables and give you your beloved bronze, summer glow. Working alongside those carotenoids are high levels of vitamins C and A—making red peppers a killer skin care combo. In addition to skin health, these vitamins do incredible things for your eyesight. For skin improvement you can really see, add some red pepper to your next summer salad.
You say tomato, I say tomahto. Tomatoes are one of the most universally used foods. It's in our pasta sauce, our ketchup, our salads, and more. Like with the red bell pepper, its red color signifies the presence of carotenoids, and one of the most important carotenoids in tomatoes is called lycopene. Lycopene has been credited for preventing an array of diseases like heart disease, cancer, cataracts, and asthma. It's even been used to treat HPV in some cases. However you pronounce it, we all should be working more tomatoes into our everyday diet. Your body and your skin will thank you!
There's nothing quite like a perfect, juicy summer peach, and we're giving you one more reason to eat peaches this season. Peaches combine carotenoids with high levels of potassium, a mineral essential for proper body function. Potassium helps to sustain healthy levels of blood pressure as well as maintain proper brain function. So, the next time you're craving a sweet treat this summer, reach into the fruit bowl for a peach—you'll do both your body and skin a favor. Bonus: Eating more fruit is on our list of 50 best weight loss tips!
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