As the organic vs. conventional battle rages on, a major new study awards yet another victory to organic produce and dairy. But oddly enough, organics may not be the only antioxidant heavyweight. Look deep within your produce bin to discover the ignored fruit and vegetables that are just a bit past their prime, and you may actually uncover a treasure trove of antioxidants …
Early results from a large study at the Tesco Centre for Organic Agriculture at Newcastle University showed a healthy victory for organics. According to the British scientists, some organic foods, including fruit, vegetables and milk, may be more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts. In fact, the study showed that organic fruit and vegetables contained up to 40% more antioxidants than non-organic varieties. Even higher discrepancies were seen in milk, with organic varieties boasting more than 60% higher levels of antioxidants and healthy fatty acids.
Sure, these results may not surprise many organic food devotees, but a second study on antioxidant levels is a bit of a shocker.
As reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, fruits and vegetables that are a bit past their prime (aka spoiling) may still be packed with antioxidants. In fact, they may even be a bit higher in antioxidants than their freshly purchased cousins.
Researchers at the Plant Biology Institute of Belgium's University of Liege purchased 29 different kinds of fruits and vegetables, including including apples, apricots, asparagus, bananas, broccoli, carrots, celery, cherries, cucumbers, French beans, garlic, black grapes, green grapes, green peppers, kiwi, leeks, lemons, lettuce, melons, onions, oranges, pears, black plums, red peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, and yellow peppers and measured their antioxidant levels at the time of purchase.
The scientists then proceeded to properly store the produce until they saw signs that the fruits and vegetables were spoiling. We are not talking completely rotten, but just beginning to spoil; this ranged from seven days for apricots to 51 days for carrots.
They then proceeded to measure the antioxidant levels of the now less appealing produce. Overall, the antioxidant levels actually rose or remained stable. Broccoli, spinach, and bananas were among the very few exceptions that had lower antioxidant levels when spoiled compared with fresh.
Of course, the researchers still warn against eating spoiled produce from a food safety standpoint. However, I must admit some piece of mind in knowing that I can still expect adequate health benefits from the slightly soft fruits and vegetables lingering in the produce keeper from my early week shopping trip.
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