Fruits and vegetables in grocery stores are still alive and know what time of
day it is, researchers report.
The findings suggest that the way produce is stored and eaten could have an
impact on its nutritional value and health benefits, according to the study,
which was published in the journal Current Biology.
"Vegetables and fruits, even after harvest, can respond to light signals and
consequently change their biology in ways that may affect health value and
insect resistance," study author Janet Braam, of Rice University, said in a
journal news release.
"Perhaps we should be storing our vegetables and fruits under light-dark
cycles and timing when to cook and eat them to enhance their health value."
By remaining alive after being harvested, vegetables and fruits can alter
levels of chemicals that protect them from being eaten by insects and other
creatures, the researchers found. Some of these chemicals also have anti-cancer
Braam and her colleagues made the initial discovery in cabbage and then found
similar responses in lettuce, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, zucchini and
By eating vegetables and fruits at certain times of day, you may gain the
most benefit from them. But that may prove challenging, so the researchers
suggested another approach to get the most out of your produce.
"It may be of interest to harvest crops and freeze or otherwise preserve them
at specific times of day, when nutrients and valuable phytochemicals are at
their peak," Braam said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about fruits