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article imageStoring fruit & vegetables differently may boost health benefits

By Tim Sandle     Jun 23, 2013 in Health
It may seem a little strange, but storing fruit and vegetables differently could help to boost their health benefits in relation to chemical like antioxidants.
According to new research, undertaken by the Rice University and the University of California at Davis, when fruits and vegetables are picked they continue to function for several days. As the fruits and vegetables function, Medical News notes, they produce different chemicals at different times of the day. This is a continuation of what is taking place before they are picked. At different times of the day plants are at greater risk to insects, so they tend to produce different disease fighting compounds to match the times when they are most vulnerable.
Some of these chemicals are thought to yield health benefits. For example, cabbage contains cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates, which are produced at different rates at different times in the day, as NPR notes. The glucosinolate sinigrin, among others, was shown to be responsible for the bitterness of cooked cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
The research team attempted to simulate this and to see if picked fruits and vegetables could be manipulated into behaving in the same way. To do this the researchers simulated day-night cycles of light and dark to control the internal clocks of fruits and vegetables, including cabbage, carrots, squash and blueberries. This was carried out using controlled lighting in a sealed chamber.
The trials appeared successful, in that a variety of fruits and vegetables could be controlled in terms of their biochemical cycles (as measured by the insect fighting chemicals).
What is not known at this stage is whether such manipulations shorten the shelf-life of the foods and whether the antioxidants produced to fight insects within the foods have any transmissible health benefits for people.
One area of follow-up research, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is into whether light and touch can be used to enhance pest resistance of food crops in developing countries.
The research was led by Janet Braam and the findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.
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