When all else fails, appealing to a person’s sense of vanity can often be the most powerful motivator.

We have all heard the five-a-day consumption rule on fruits and vegetables ad nauseam, but for some, the message just hasn’t penetrated. Perhaps, instead of extolling the health benefits of these foods, we should tell people what researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, recently discovered: eating approximately 3–3.5 portions of fruits and veggies per day can not only make you healthier—it can actually make Caucasians look better by giving skin tone a carotenoid boost in a matter of weeks.

Call it nature’s foundation makeup, but the orange-red pigments found in fruits and vegetables can visibly change your skin tone, according to a study published in the February 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (102 [2], 207–11).

“Diet and skin-color were recorded at baseline and after 3 and 6 weeks, in a group of 35 individuals who were without makeup, self-tanning agents and/or recent intensive UV exposure,” stated the study abstract. “Six-week changes in fruit and vegetable consumption were significantly correlated with changes in skin redness and yellowness over this period, and diet-linked skin reflectance changes were significantly associated with the spectral absorption of carotenoids and not melanin. We also used psychophysical methods to investigate the minimum color change required to confer perceptibly healthier and more attractive skin-coloration. Modest dietary changes are required to enhance apparent health (2.91 portions per day) and attractiveness (3.30 portions).”

The authors, led by Ross D. Whitehead, RD, concluded that “diet-linked skin-color changes occurred over a relatively short time period and were attainable through relatively modest dietary changes; these conditions suggest potential utility as a dietary intervention tool.” They feel that further research is required to verify whether wide-scale public health benefits could be reaped, and to determine whether the effects extend to non-Caucasians and to populations with a greater range in their initial diet.