5 Recipes That Will Spruce Up Your Looks

Forget about tanning. New research shows you'll look better if you eat more vegetables.

January 31, 2011

The sweet potatoes in this fish dish could give you a healthier look.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—We now know there’s no such thing as a “healthy” tan, but plenty of people still think that tan skin makes you look healthier. Well, science says different. New research finds that humans actually prefer the golden skin color that can result from eating lots of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables, more so than a suntanned look. As reported last month in the scientific journal Evolution and Human Behavior, UK researchers discovered that study participants preferred carotenoid-induced skin color over tanned skin. The study authors believe this preference may reflect our innate desire for healthier mates, since carotenoid consumption is associated with improved immune defense and reproductive health. Similar perceptual preferences for more golden skin tones were noted in both a UK-based Caucasian study population and a black South African study population.

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And, alas, other studies show that we tend to fall short in our consumption of the deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables that are especially rich in the carotenoids alpha- and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Along with protecting our skin, these antioxidant pigments boost eye health and protect the linings of our respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts.

Excellent carotene/vitamin A sources include sweet potatoes (one medium baked sweet potato contains 1,096 micrograms of vitamin A), carrots (671 mcg per ½ cooked cup), spinach (573 mcg per ½ cup), kale (478 mcg per ½ cup), and winter squash (268 mcg per ½ cup). What’s more, it’s best to cook these vegetables, as cooking boosts their vitamin A content, compared with eating them raw. It’s also good to include a little fat along with them, as this increases your absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids. Tasty fat sources that work well include olive oil, nuts, even butter or bacon.

Look great and boost your health at the same time? It's easy, with these fabulous carotene-rich dishes from the Rodale Recipe Finder.

#1: Rosemary-Rubbed Sweet Potatoes. The piney herb rosemary pairs wonderfully with sweet potatoes, but also with russets and red-skinned potatoes. Or, for a mouthwatering main dish, try Roasted Fish with Cumin Sweet Potatoes

#2: Pomegranate-Glazed Carrots. For a unique, seasonal side, try these carrots glazed with orange and pomegranate juice. Alternatively, horseradish gives this carrot casserole a zesty kick.

#3: Sautéed Spinach and Pine Nuts. The vegetable dish that cooks the fastest? Sautéed spinach, hands down, and it’s perfect with pine nuts. Or, for a delicious spinach entrée, try Wilted Spinach-Bacon Salad with Bow Ties.

#4: Braised Kale with Smoked Nuts. Add a smoky accent to kale recipes by adding chopped almonds, or pairing it with crispy bacon.

#5: Maple Squash with Cardamom. Baked cubes of butternut squash in this delicious winter side dish are both savory and sweet. For a main dish that's positively bursting with carotenes, stir up a Butternut Squash, Kale, and Tomato Stew.

Tags: Rodale News