Don't Reach Back

By Susan Littlefield

Are you one of those shoppers who reach into the back recesses of the produce display hoping to find the freshest salad greens with the latest expiration date? Well, it turns out that grabbing what's out in front may be not only easier, but better for you.

In research led by postharvest plant physiologist Gene Lester at a USDA Agricultural Research Service laboratory in Texas, scientists discovered that spinach leaves exposed to continuous light during storage were actually higher in nutrition than those exposed to continuous darkness. The spinach leaves that were exposed to light continued to photosynthesize, resulting in significant increases in the levels of carotenoids, vitamins C, E, and K, and folate, compared to the non-light exposed leaves. Researchers did note some more wilting after three days in light-exposed flat-leaved types of spinach relative to crinkle-leaved varieties, but the nutritional value of both was enhanced.

This research may suggest ways for markets to store and display salad greens to maximize their nutritional potential. In the meantime, make your shopping a little quicker -- and healthier -- by reaching for up-front greens. Better yet, for the highest nutritional value, grow your own!

For more information on how market lighting affects nutrients, go to: ARS.

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