Don’t leave your veggies in the dark

By Laura Mize • Published: September 27th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Want to get the most out of your vegetables?

All they really want is a little taste of life on the farm. Natural cycles of light and dark … instead of the near constant dark of your refrigerator or the continual glow of a grow light … should do the trick.

You see, plants have circadian rhythms — natural cycles that regulate metabolism and other functions and are guided by light and dark, and by temperature. Researchers from Rice University say veggies continue to respond to cycles of light and dark that mimic those they know from nature, even after they’re picked.

The veggies these scientists studied produced more glucosinolates (glu-co-sin-o-lates) when exposed to natural light cycles than those always stuck in the dark or light. These compounds have two key purposes.

One, they help vegetables resist bugs and fungi that would like to gobble them up. They do so by making the produce less tasty or even dangerous to pests. Two, they can help people fend off cancer. That’s right.

Glucosinolates are anticarcinogens (an-ti-car-cin-o-gens). They’re found in cruciferous vegetables — leafy green ones such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and others. Past research has shown these compounds can help halt the growth of some cancers … more proof that mom was right about eating your vegetables.

Other vegetables and fruits might see a boost in different compounds with natural light cycles, too. And there’s another angle that has yet to be explored: how much the nutritional value of produce may change based on this phenomenon.

But it’s safe to say the results look promising so far. Eating more vegetables is always a good way to go.

Maybe refrigerators of the future will be equipped with timed lights to give produce a more au naturel environment post-picking. If you’re able, growing your own produce and eating it fresh from the harvest may be the best idea of all.