There’s a chance that by fossicking around for catwalk-ready fruit and vegetables on supermarket shelves, you are doing your health a disservice.
That’s right, researchers have found evidence to suggest that imperfect produce has more antioxidants and other important nutrients than their more attractive counterparts.
While the research is not conclusive, the belief is that because pockmarks or odd shapes are often caused by the plant responding to some kind of threat, such as a pest attack, they’ve produced more antioxidants and other nutrients to protect themselves. The thinking is that once they’ve warded off this attack, these extra nutrients remain and are passed onto any lucky creature that eats it. A 2010 study, for example, found that apples with scabs had more phenolic compounds, which contain antioxidants and can reduce inflammation, than their unmarked friends.
This is supported by organic produce research, which posits that in the absence of pesticides and herbicides to protect them, plants produce more nutrients as part of a natural defence mechanism against pests, disease and other environmental threats.
Basically, just like with people, what doesn’t kill plants actually makes them stronger (and consequently, more nutritious!).
It’s worth noting that this is not a blanket rule. Sometimes, bruising and discolouration is a sign that fruit and vegetables are aging and therefore lower in nutrients than their fresher counterparts. However, bruising, which is browning caused by cells breaking down and getting exposed to oxygen, does not necessarily indicate food is no longer good to eat. In most cases, it’s okay to simply cut off the offending spot and enjoy!
And, even if bruises and imperfections do indicate signs of age, it shouldn’t immediately disqualify the little guy from your plate. Unless the thing is seriously rotten, it’s still going to be a tasty, nutritious morsal even if it’s lost a little of its nutritional content over time.
All produce is nourishing – within reason, we don’t recommend eating spoiled fruit and veg – and it’s much better off in your belly than in landfill.