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Researchers: Light-dark cycles may keep foods fresher

Thursday, June 20, 2013

According to researchers at Rice University, some foods have an internal clock that can keep them fresher even after they're harvested.

Clarence Batiste is a regular at Canino Produce just north of downtown Houston.

"I'm shopping here because the vegetable is fresh, fresh out of the garden, picked the night before," Batiste said. "It's doing something for your body. It's doing something for your soul. You can enjoy it in peace because you know it's fresh and hand-picked."

Linda Alston likes it there, too.

"I like fresh vegetables," Alston said.

She loads up her cart every time she visits.

"Get a lot better taste, better vitamins, I'm sure," she said. "It is healthier."

But what if there was an easy, inexpensive way to make the fruits and vegetables you eat even more healthy for you? That's exactly what some researchers at Rice University may have done.

"Our lab is interested in how the circadian clock protects plants against insects," said Dr. Janet Braam with Rice University.

Braam led a team of researchers whose work was published Thursday. That circadian clock she mention helps plants keep time and helps them fight off insects.

This time lapse that Rice provided us shows two plants: one that was subjected to daylight and darkness and one that wasn't. What it means to you is that the chemicals which plants or produce release to fight insects may also keep them fresher and full of nutrients. The research focused on cabbage and one particular chemical.

"These chemicals are important anti-cancer compounds so they have been shown to have activity against cancer growth," Braam said.

The research is still in the beginning stages and so the greater implications aren't fully known, though there's a good hypothesis.

"It may be important that we store our crops, our vegetables and fruits -- even after harvest -- store them in light-dark cycles so they can maintain their rhythmic cycling," Braam said.

Maybe making what's already good for us even better.

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rice university, local, tom abrahams
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