Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Front and Center Grocery Store Produce May Pack More Nutrition

While shopping for fruits and veggies at the grocery store, common sense tells us to choose the stuff at the back of the shelf or what's underneath. Those items are usually the freshest and/or have the latest expiry dates. But now you might have more of an incentive to buy whats up top, or front and center, because it might actually contain more nutrients than the stuff that's buried. Is this real or just a scheme to get us to buy more of the older stuff? Lets see.

Gene Lester, a research plant physiologist at the United States Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Md was curious as to whether or not those bright, blinding fluorescent lights at the grocery store would have any effect on the ability of fruits and veggies to undergo photosynthesis. Even after they're picked and packaged, plants still contain various chlorophyll molecules, which they use to convert sunlight into energy and nutrients.

In the study, Lester housed bunches of spinach under conditions typically found in grocery stores, down to the packaging and temperature. The difference was that he exposed one bunch to fluorescent lights like the ones found in grocery stores and another was kept in a dark bag to keep the light out. Ultimately, he found that the spinach exposed to fluorescent light, which mimics the spectrum of natural light, contained higher concentrations of folate, as well as vitamins C, E, and K. After just 3 days, the concentrations of some nutrients rose 10-20%, while after 9 days, some rose by 100%.

Whether or not these increased nutrient concentrations are significant is a matter of personal preference, since most people aren't deficient in these particular nutrients to begin with. The thing is, fruits and veggies are in fact better for you when consumed as close as possible to when you buy them, even if buying produce with a sooner expiry date may not be ideal for everyone. In most cases, nutrients start to deteriorate just days after produce is purchased, so be sure to get them while they're fresh!