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Eat your way to a better tan.

Fruits such as cantaloupe melon and apricots, and vegetables like peppers, carrots and spinach all enhance skin tone and make people look more attractive, academics have found.

Switching to a healthier diet can have visible effect on the complexion in as little as a month, they discovered.

The findings, which have yet to be officially published, could be used as part of a more positive campaign to convince people to eat more fruit and vegetables.

According to Ian Stephen, an experimental psychologist at Bristol University, the secret to the perfect skin tone is found in naturally occuring chemicals called carotenoids. These are a group of some 600 organic pigments found in many plants. Stephen examined the role of beta-carotene in green and orange fruit and vegetables in changing skin tone.

He asked volunteers to compare 'before and after' photographs of Caucasian people who had been asked to start a five-a-day diet.

Stephen explained that in humans there were two pigments which had a major affect on the yellowness of fair skin: melanin and carotenoids.

The former is associated with UV exposure, the latter with certain fruits and vegetables.

He told The Sunday Times: "We found people always preferred the golden effect from diet to the darker effect from the sun."

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