If you’re like many discerning grocery shoppers, you’re probably in the habit of picking through fresh fruits and vegetables for the most vibrant, flawless items. But in reality, when you set aside those with minor imperfections, you may be passing up healthful phytonutrients, too.
Why “imperfect” choices may be better for your health
It turns out, the scars and odd shapes you see in some fruits and vegetables at your favorite produce department, can be a sign of healthful benefits.
“Many cosmetic defects in fruits and vegetables are the result of some kind of stress – exposure to insects, excess exposure to sunlight or poor soil,” says Keith Randolph, Ph.D., nutrition technology strategist at the Nutrilite Health Institute.
Some early research suggests that produce stressed by these factors may contain higher levels of beneficial compounds called phytonutrients that protect plants from these stresses. Interestingly, many of these same compounds may confer stress response protection when consumed by humans.
- Keith Randolph, Ph.D. Nutrition Technology Strategist Nutrilite Health Institute
Improving diets with imperfect foods
In part because of this research, an emerging consumer produce trend known as the “ugly fruit movement” is now sweeping across much of Europe and the US.
Cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables that are normally discarded because of their superficial blemishes and distorted shapes are now becoming increasingly available to consumers – at a lower cost than their cosmetically perfect counterparts. “That might result in increased fruit and vegetable consumption, a much-needed improvement in most diets, which lack recommended quantities of these healthful foods,” says Randolph.
Randolph is co-author of a study* commissioned by the Nutrilite Health Institute of Amway, which finds the majority of adults worldwide would have to at least double their current consumption of fruits and vegetables to meet the World Health Organization’s minimum recommendation of five servings per day.
“The trend could be a triple win: reduced food waste, increased income for farms, and increased consumption of healthy phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables,” he notes.
*The Global Phytonutrient Report: A Global Snapshot of Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Availability, and Implications for Phytonutrient Intakes was developed by Nutrilite using results from an analysis of fruit and vegetable intakes conducted for Nutrilite by Exponent, Inc. The analysis of fruit and vegetable intakes was conducted using data from several sources: World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Survey (WHS), the Global Environment Monitoring System – Food Contamination Monitoring and Assessment Programme (GEMS/Food) and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Supply Utilization Accounts (SUA) and Food Balance Sheets. All implications and inferences presented in this report were prepared by Nutrilite and represent the opinions of Nutrilite.