Ripe fruit = more antioxidants

May 27, 2008

As someone who has never been in favour of ‘crunchy’ fruit and been told often by nutritionists that too ripe fruit was bad for me as it upped my sugar levels too high, I am delighted to report that there is an upside to fruit that are fully ripened.

Apparently, as pears and apples ripen, the chlorophyll in the peel is replaced by an antioxidant known as nonfluorescing chlorophyll catabolytes (NCCs), not a very catchy name, but according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, it has the benefit of upping the antioxidant level of the fruit.

Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes plants’ leaves green and enables them to convert sunlight into energy. When a leaf dies, the chlorophyll begins to decay and the leaf loses its green color. This may happen because of age or injury, so I shudder to think what state the Jolly Green Giant is in as he got his name in 1925 when the US General Food Company thought it would help kids eat more vegetables, by frightening them into it presumably, and has been around on their canned vegetable labels ever since.

The decay of chlorophyll in fruit appears to be linked not to death, but to ripening. In apples and pears, chlorophyll in and just below the peel breaks down into NCCs as the fruit ripens. NCCs are only the most recent antioxidant to be identified in fruit and according to the researchers, the presence of NCCs in ripe fruit have a definite antioxidant effect, and this suggests that they may have an important nutritional effect in animals that regularly eat fruit. That would be us and the chimpanzees, so I can now have a good reason for avoiding the crunchy conference pears and heading straight for the luscious Italian dessert varieties.


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