The next time you are at the grocery store, you may want to think twice before you pass on blemished or misshapen fruits and vegetables. Not only does cosmetic imperfection cause tons of food waste, but it is now believed that “ugly” fruits and vegetables may be more nutritious for you. Many people even say that they taste better, too. Researchers believe that blemishes could actually cause the produce to have higher antioxidant levels. Stress such as weather and pests cause fruits and vegetables to ramp up their defenses, resulting in higher health-promoting nutrients.
Here is what the studies show about ugly fruits and vegetables:
• An apple with a scab has more healthy, antioxidant phenolic compounds, called phenylpropanoids, than a scab-free apple peel.
• Apple leaves with scabs have 10 to 20 percent more phenolic compounds than apple leaves without scabs.
• High levels of resveratrol (antioxidant known for its cardio-protective properties) were found in grape leaves infected with fungi or exposed to the stress of ultraviolet light.
• Fungi infections in Japanese knotweed, a plant with a long tradition of use in Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine, boosted its resveratrol content.
• A 2014 review of 343 studies found that organic produce had a 20 to 40 percent higher antioxidant content than conventional produce. Those antioxidants include compounds such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, anthocyanins and carotenoids, all produced by plants as defense mechanisms when they are stressed by pests.
It is exciting to see that some grocery stores, such as select Whole Foods stores, will begin selling “ugly” produce at discount prices. Not only is this a step in the right direction to help reduce food waste, but hopefully it will help with the notion that fruits and vegetables need to look flawless in order to be eaten.
Photo from here, with thanks.