Ugly Produce Might Be Healthier Than The Pretty Stuff
When we see a carrot with legs or a tomato with a menacing smile, we think, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. We might feel sad that this poor lil' guy will never have a home, but the bottom line is, it ain't coming home with us.
But let's set the record straight: "ugly" produce is not to be discarded or pitied. It's strong. So strong, in fact, it might actually pack more of a nutritional punch than its perfectly polished peers.
NPR says there's some scientific evidence suggesting that unsightly scarring on fruits and vegetables may reflect higher nutrition.
Here are the findings of some more recent studies:
One study showed that an apple covered in scab has more healthy, antioxidant phenolic compounds, called phenylpropanoids, than a scab-free apple peel. Another study showed that apple leaves infected with scab have 10 to 20 percent more phenolic compounds. Similar research has found high levels of resveratrol in grape leaves infected with fungi or simply exposed to the stress of ultraviolet light. A study of Japanese knotweed, a plant with a long tradition of use in Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine, found that infection with common fungi boosted its resveratrol content as well.
As NPR points out, the scientific world is pretty much in agreement that organic produce contains more antioxidants (20 to 40 percent more!). Since it can't rely on pesticides like conventional produce can, it ends up producing compounds on its own—like flavonoids, phenolic acids, and carotenoids—as defense mechanisms from pests.
In other words: imperfections might actually be battle scars. They could indicate the fight those fruits and vegetables put up to survive and get onto our cutting boards.
Forty percent of all food produced in the U.S. is thrown away. Fortunately, there is a growing movement to sell misshapen and discolored produce, instead of dumping it into landfills. And maybe, now that we know it could actually be better for us, we'll consider tossing it in our carts rather than tossing it aside.