Spoiled Produce Still Nutritious?
Many Fruits and Vegetables Keep Their Antioxidants Longer Than Their Looks, Study Shows
Oct. 12, 2007 -- Fruits and vegetables that are a bit past their prime may
still be packed with antioxidants.
That news appears in next week's edition of the Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry.
The researchers aren't suggesting that anyone eat spoiled food. That's a
food safety no-no.
But their findings show most fruits and vegetables don't lose their
antioxidants when they start to look bad.
"In general, fruits and vegetables visually spoil before any significant
antioxidant capacity loss occurs," write the scientists, who included
Claire Kevers, PhD, of the Plant Biology Institute at Belgium's University of
Fruit and Vegetable Study
Kevers and colleagues visited a wholesale distribution center in Belgium and
bought 29 different kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Their shopping list included apples, apricots, asparagus, bananas, broccoli,
carrots, celery, cherries, cucumbers, French beans, garlic, black grapes, green
grapes, green peppers, kiwifruit, leeks, lemons, lettuce, melons, onions,
oranges, pears, black plums, red peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, and
As soon as Kevers and colleagues got back to their lab, they measured the
antioxidant levels of those fruits and vegetables.
Black grapes, strawberries, and red peppers were particularly high in
The researchers then stored the fruits and veggies at room temperature or at
39 degrees Fahrenheit.
That temperature is in line with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
recommendation to keep refrigerator temperatures at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or
Nasty but Nutritious?
The scientists stored the produce until they saw signs that the fruits and
vegetables were spoiling. That took between seven days (for apricots) and 51
days (for carrots).
Kevers' team measured the antioxidant levels in the spoiled items.
For the most part, antioxidant levels rose or were stable in the fruits and
vegetables during storage in the researchers' lab.
Broccoli, spinach, and bananas were among the few exceptions that had lower
antioxidant levels when spoiled compared with immediately after being
How did those foods taste? The researchers didn't go there. Their study was
about measuring antioxidants, not tempting the taste buds.