Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Keep your veggies in the light?


Here is an interesting little report:

Far from being a food spoiler, the fluorescent lighting in supermarkets actually can boost the nutritional value of fresh spinach, scientists are reporting. The finding could lead to improved ways of preserving and enhancing the nutritional value of spinach and perhaps other veggies, they suggest in a study in ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The full text of the study is available. Here is the abstract:

Current retail marketing conditions allow produce to receive artificial light 24 h per day during its displayed shelf life. Essential human-health vitamins [ascorbic acid (vit C), folate (vit B9), phylloquinone (vit K1), α-tocopherol (vit E), and the carotenoids lutein, violaxanthin, zeaxanthin, and β-carotene (provit A)] also are essential for photosynthesis and are biosynthesized in plants by light conditions even under chilling temperatures. Spinach leaves, notably abundant in the aforementioned human-health compounds, were harvested from flat-leaf 'Lazio' and crinkle-leafed 'Samish' cultivars at peak whole-plant maturity as baby (top- and midcanopy) and larger (lower-canopy) leaves. Leaves were placed as a single layer in commercial, clear-polymer retail boxes and stored at 4 °C for up to 9 days under continuous light (26.9 μmol·m2 ·s) or dark. Top-canopy, baby-leaf spinach generally had higher concentrations of all bioactive compounds, on a dry weight basis, with the exception of carotenoids, than bottom-canopy leaves. All leaves stored under continuous light generally had higher levels of all bioactive compounds, except β-carotene and violaxanthin, and were more prone to wilting, especially the flat-leafed cultivar. All leaves stored under continuous darkness had declining or unchanged levels of the aforementioned bioactive compounds. Findings from this study revealed that spinach leaves exposed to simulated retail continuous light at 4 °C, in clear plastic containers, were overall more nutritionally dense (enriched) than leaves exposed to continuous darkness.

4 comments:

John Sifferman said...

Now that is interesting. It seems that exposure to light reverses the decay of spinach and possibly other foods - enabling them to hold onto their nutrients for longer periods of time. I wonder if there would be any differences if it were sunlight that they were exposed to, in varying amounts and intensities (direct sun, partially screened, etc.).

Now THERE's a business idea...

Chris said...

does the light in the refrigerator go off when I close the door?

John Sifferman said...

ya, they all do... there's another niche business idea: optimized refrigerator homeostasis chambers (aka "the high tech fridge" that makes your food last longer and keep more of its nutrients).

W8liftinmom said...

I appliance companies will have to start making home versions of glass-front refrigerators. :-)