We’re all guilty of it. Digging through the produce section to find those perfectly round, bright red tomatoes or bruise-free apples. Consumers are experts at rejecting any oddly shaped or mildly bruised produce, which makes it no surprise that 133 billion pounds of food went uneaten in 2010. But would you be more likely to choose those misshapen or unusually colored fruits and vegetables if it meant getting better nutrition from them?
It’s true, studies show that imperfect produce may contain more nutrients than their prettier counterparts. The very thing that makes them unappealing to grocery shoppers is what might cause them to have more antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and resveratrol.
How exactly does this happen? Well compare it to kids who play outside (and never really get sick) or those living in a safe bubble (who always seem to have a cold). The idea behind these results (ugly=healthier) is that the plant gets its ugly mug by defending itself. When attacked, either by pests or plant diseases or just being dropped one too many times, the plant must defend itself, sometimes by producing more antioxidants. When these plants overcome the problem and continue growing, they keep these extra antioxidants to pass onto whoever eats it.
If you’re chomping to get your hands on the unattractive produce now, you’re in luck. Whole Foods is testing selling ugly fruits and and veggies. Other stores that haven’t embraced the idea yet may have their less than sightly foodstuffs buried under prettier produce, so some digging may be required. And farmers’ markets are a good place to find foods that wouldn’t normally meet the industry’s beauty standards. Just remember, ugly produce needs love too.