In an effort to keep shoppers happy and healthy, many supermarkets offer information on how to properly store fresh produce at home so that days after purchase, valuable vitamins and minerals are preserved.
In an effort to keep shoppers happy and healthy, many supermarkets offer information on how to properly store fresh produce at home so that days after purchase, valuable vitamins and minerals are preserved. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry shed new light (pun intended) on how the lighting in supermarkets positively affects the nutrient content of leafy greens, specifically the nutrient rich and storage-sensitive spinach plant.
Gene Lester, the lead author on the study, decided to investigate this topic after a routine shopping trip to his local market. He noticed that much of the produce is exposed to continuous light, specifically the leafy greens that are especially sensitive to time from harvest, temperature and light. Lester hypothesized that the continuous exposure to light allows the leafy green veggies to maintain photosynthesis - the process by which plants grow and produce nutrients - and thus their nutrients are preserved or may actually increase. Supermarkets' harsh fluorescent lights actually mimic the spectrum of natural sunlight and are often kept on 24 hours a day.
The study's results revealed that spinach packaged in the clear plastic containers might actually be a good thing. Researchers compared spinach stored in clear containers versus those in covered containers and found that after three days, concentrations of some vitamins increased by 10 to 20 percent. After nine days, the levels of folate and vitamin K had risen by 100 percent. On the contrary, the nutritional content of the covered spinach stayed the same or worsened over time. The researchers suspect that the benefits of photosynthesis are also occurring in other fruits and vegetables that are exposed to nonstop light in the supermarket as well.
The results of this study are shocking and fascinating, and the Lempert Report would like to see more research on this topic. In the meantime, supermarkets, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers should be aware of the findings of Lester's study and possibly rethink the way they are storing, delivering - maybe fully lit trailers and warehouses? - and packing - think clear biodegradable plastic containers with labeling on the side - their produce.
And maybe that harsh supermarket lighting isn't so harsh after all.
The study, Relationship between fresh-packed spinach leaves exposed to continuous light or dark, and bioactive contents: Cultivars, leaf size and storage duration, can be found in The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry