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Timing Your Vegetables Right

Eureka! Vegetables' nutritional properties vary according to their light cycle. They are most healthful when exposed to light after being stored in the dark.

Two people dressed in vegetable costumes greet each other at a farmer's market.

Photo: hojusaram (Flickr)

Vegetables are optimal during the day but only after they get a good night's rest.

Mom was right about eating your veggies. But what she didn’t know and what scientists have recently discovered is that it’s best to consume them at particular times.

Veggie Insect Repellent

When a vegetable is growing, it protects itself from insects by producing chemical nutrients that make it taste bad or seem repellant to predators. Some of these nutrients—in particular phytochemicals—have been shown to fight cancer in people. What’s more, many vegetables are able to anticipate when insects will attack, and will ramp up its defenses accordingly.

Light Exposure

Even after vegetables are harvested and they’re no longer fighting insects, these garden wonders can still be made to produce more nutrients at certain times. This is done by varying a vegetable’s light exposure to simulate the experience of night turning into day. Studies have shown that vegetables stored this way produce more phytochemicals during the light cycle.

So eating vegetables during this golden period means you’re getting more nutritional value!

It’s not yet clear how people might be able to activate these nutrition-packed properties at home. Perhaps simply storing veggies in the dark and then subjecting them to a flash of light is enough to trigger the process. Or it could be more complex. In any case, more research could help us find ways to maximize vegetables’ nutritional benefits.

So watch out, veggies! Phytochemicals might stave off insects, but your defenses are powerless against humans.

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