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The proactive community pharmacist will advise patients on such public health topics as the benefits of “five-a-day” fruit and vegetables and the dangers of too much sun exposure. But in the light of new research these two tips can be combined because plenty of fruit and vegetables can give your skin an attractive glow without the need for sunbathing.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham have shown that people find the golden skin colour induced by dietary carotenoids more attractive than sun-tanned skin. While this study describes work in caucasian faces, it suggests that the effect may work across cultures, since similar preferences for yellow skin were found in an African population.
And in evolutionary terms it all makes sense. We are attracted to healthy looking partners. And what better way to stay healthy than to eat plenty of vegetables?
The health benefits of Daucus carota are fairly well known. It is a rich source of fibre, antioxidants and minerals, and its beta carotene content is metabolised into vitamin A, which helps with night vision, among other things.
But be warned. Too many carrots can cause carotenaemia, a benign yellow-orange skin discoloration most likely to affect vegetarians and young children.
The old wives’ tale that eating carrots will help you to see in the dark developed from stories of British gunners in the 1939–45 war who were able to shoot down German planes during the night. The Royal Air Force circulated a story about their pilots’ carrot consumption in an attempt to cover up the discovery and effective use of radar technology in engaging enemy planes. This rumour reinforced existing German folklore and helped encourage the British, hoping to improve their night vision during blackouts, to grow and eat the vegetable.
Carrots can certainly provide an interesting talking point. If you need convincing, just consult the World Carrot Museum (www. carrotmuseum.co.uk). This quirky site contains such useful trivia as the length of the world’s longest carrot — 5.841m, and grown in the UK).
The wild ancestors of Britain’s third favourite vegetable probably came from Iran and Afghanistan, where they were grown for the aromatic leaves and seeds, rather than the roots. Carrot relatives such as parsley, dill, fennel and cumin are still grown for this purpose. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness and minimise the root’s woody core.