According to the new study plant chemicals called carotenoids - the yellow, orange and red pigments in fruit and vegetables – give a perceptible glow to healthy skin, making the person a more attractive potential mate. In simple terms eating veggies makes you sexier!
The coloring is an even more powerful signifier of health than a glowing tan.
The researchers at York, St Andrews and Cambridge Universities in the UK, believe we have learnt to link bronzed skin with good health as this helps us pick a mate by avoiding sickly sorts who might pass on an infection.
The researchers took photos of 20 men and women and then adjusted them to create four different versions.
In one set of images, the faces had the golden glow of someone who eats a lot of fruit and veg and in a second they had the less healthy complexion of someone who eats few greens.
The third and fourth sets also had contrasting skin tones but the faces were jumbled up to create abstract images that were unrecognisable as being human.
Volunteers then rated the attractiveness of the images.
The yellowness of the abstract images didn’t make a difference but the more golden faces were clearly judged as being better looking.
The results suggest that rather than being a colour we find attractive in general, yellow tells us something special when part of someone’s skin tone.
York University researcher Carmen Lefevre said: ‘This suggests we use it in other people as a quick of who could be health and, perhaps more importantly, who may be unhealthy.
You don’t want to touch someone who has an illness you might catch.’
Carotenoids also boost the human immune system and although they are most commonly associated with carrots, they are also abundant in green fruits and vegetables.
Even small amounts can make a difference.
Dr Lefevre, said: ‘Other work we have shown that eating one or two more portions makes a visible difference after only four weeks.’
Her finding, reported in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, could also explain why a suntan is often described as a healthy glow.
The researcher said: ‘Some other work that our lab has done indicates that people prefer a tan to no tan.
‘However, they seem to prefer the carotenoid colour more than a tan. Eating more fruit is better than going in the sun.’
She suggests that people eat a variety of different fruit and vegetables to get the most benefit.