Is ripe fruit healthier?

RIPEN FRUIT

If you ever asked yourself the question “Is ripe fruit healthier?” Almost everyone would agree that in some sense we all think it is. The ripe fruit is attractive, delightful, refreshing, it's full of sweet juices and has an incredible flavour that lets your senses come alive showering them with the sensation of flavour perceived by your mouth.

Yes, ripe fruit invites you to see, smell, touch and taste, it awakens your senses, but is it really healthier? Let's have a look. Image: See credits under ref. [12] below.

 

IS RIPE FRUIT HEALTHIER?


The answer is not clear, at least not in all cases. In general, ripening increases the sugar to acid ratio, as can be observed in the ripening process of sweet lime for example [13]. This increase of sugar levels compared to acid gives the fruits a more pleasant taste as well as a boost of dopamine to our bodies.

Under select dietary circumstances, sugar can have effects similar to a drug of abuse [14]. In fact, the ingestion of sugar induces our bodies to release dopamine, a hormone that plays an important role in reward-motivated behaviour [15].

Of course, taste doesn't have an impact on the content of nutrients and active constituents of fruit and therefore neither it has on the benefits exerted by ripe or unripe fruit. Let's have a look at some particular examples:

 

MEDLAR FRUIT


Ripe fruit is not only tastier, sometimes it is also healthier. In some cases the concentration of proteins, flavonoids and other active constituents seems to be much higher in ripe fruit when compared to unripe fruit, nevertheless this is not always the case as we can see in medlar fruit.

A study made on the chemical composition of medlar fruit (Mespilus germanica) measured at various ripening stages after full bloom, showed how the levels of:

  • ascorbic acid,
  • total phenolic compound content and
  • total antioxidant activity

decreased significantly with increasing time of ripeness, as well as a tendency to also decrease the content in

  • potassium,
  • calcium and
  • magnesium

contents during the ripening stages [9].

 

THE STRAWBERRY CASE


Strawberries seem to be a different case. In a study performed in two strawberry crops at three ripening stages, protein abundance was significantly changed with increased anthocyanin content in advanced fruit maturity and ripeness [5].

Anthocyanins are the most abundant type of flavonoid [16] and they are responsible for the blue or purple colour present in blueberries, cherries, grapes, blackberries and many others fruits [17]. Actually, a little more than 500 anthocyanins have been found [18] in different herbs, plants and natural sources.

 

CHILI PEPPERS (CAPSICUM CHINENSE)


Chili peppers (Capsicum chinense), are one of the examples of those plants that do not get better maturing, at least not healthier, at least not in all types of Chili peppers.

In a study performed on Capsicum chinense where the antioxidant capacity of Capsicum was directly related to the total amount of phenolic compounds detected, immature pericarps of bell peppers presented higher antioxidant capacity than the ripe state. This wasn't the case of Habanero pepper in which the antioxidant content was higher in ripe peppers [7].

 

RIPE BANANAS AND TUMOUR NECROSIS FACTOR


Bananas have many properties and health benefits, however not many people know about their most valuable active constituent, a lectin named BanLec (from Banana Lectin).

BanLec is known to exert anti-cancer and anti-HIV properties. BanLec lectin has been identified in the predominant proteins in the pulp of ripe bananas (Musa acuminata).

 

REFERENCES

[1] Plant names Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 - 2020, Sorting Mespilus Names. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database - A Work in Progress. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia. < http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/Sorting/Mespilus.html > (2006).
[2] Effect of five different stages of ripening on chemical compounds in medlar (Mespilus germanica L.). Rop O, Sochor J, Jurikova T, Zitka O, Skutkova H, Mlcek J, Salas P, Krska B, Babula P, Adam V, Kramarova D, Beklova M, Provaznik I, Kizek R. Department of Food Technology and Microbiology, Faculty of Technology, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Namesti T. G. Masaryka 275, CZ-762 72 Zlin, Czech Republic.
[3] Dietary fiber, organic acids and minerals in selected wild edible fruits of Mozambique Telma Magaia,corresponding author1,3 Amália Uamusse,2 Ingegerd Sjöholm,3 and Kerstin Skog3
[4] Quantitative analysis of flavan-3-ols in Spanish foodstuffs and beverages. de Pascual-Teresa S, Santos-Buelga C, Rivas-Gonzalo JC. Laboratorio de Nutrición y Bromatología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Salamanca, Campus Miguel de Unamuno, Salamanca 37007, Spain.
[5] Quantitative changes in proteins responsible for flavonoid and anthocyanin biosynthesis in strawberry fruit at different ripening stages: A targeted quantitative proteomic investigation employing multiple reaction monitoring. Song J1, Du L2, Li L3, Kalt W4, Palmer LC4, Fillmore S4, Zhang Y5, Zhang Z2, Li X3.
[6] Carotenoid accumulation during tomato fruit ripening is modulated by the auxin-ethylene balance. Su L1,2, Diretto G3, Purgatto E4, Danoun S5, Zouine M6,7, Li Z8, Roustan JP9,10, Bouzayen M11,12, Giuliano G13, Chervin C14,15.
[7] Antioxidant Capacity and Total Phenolic Content in Fruit Tissues from Accessions of Capsicum chinense Jacq. (Habanero Pepper) at Different Stages of Ripening Lizbeth A. Castro-Concha, Jemina Tuyub-Che, Angel Moo-Mukul, Felipe A. Vazquez-Flota, and Maria L. Miranda-Ham*
[8] Plant names Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 - 2020, Sorting Mespilus Names. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database - A Work in Progress. Faculty of Land & Food Resources. The University of Melbourne. Australia. < http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/Sorting/Mespilus.html > (2006).
[9] Effect of five different stages of ripening on chemical compounds in medlar (Mespilus germanica L.). Rop O, Sochor J, Jurikova T, Zitka O, Skutkova H, Mlcek J, Salas P, Krska B, Babula P, Adam V, Kramarova D, Beklova M, Provaznik I, Kizek R. Department of Food Technology and Microbiology, Faculty of Technology, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Namesti T. G. Masaryka 275, CZ-762 72 Zlin, Czech Republic.
[10] Dietary fiber, organic acids and minerals in selected wild edible fruits of Mozambique Telma Magaia,corresponding author1,3 Amália Uamusse,2 Ingegerd Sjöholm,3 and Kerstin Skog3
[11] Quantitative analysis of flavan-3-ols in Spanish foodstuffs and beverages. de Pascual-Teresa S, Santos-Buelga C, Rivas-Gonzalo JC. Laboratorio de Nutrición y Bromatología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Salamanca, Campus Miguel de Unamuno, Salamanca 37007, Spain.
[12] Pixabay image under Public Domain License CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0).
[13] Postharvest ripening study of sweet lime (Citrus limettioides) in situ by volume-localized NMR spectroscopy. Banerjee A1, George C, Bharathwaj S, Chandrakumar N.
[14] Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. Rada P1, Avena NM, Hoebel BG.
[15] Wikipedia article on Dopamine under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
[16] The Science of Flavonoids By Erich Grotewold.
[17] The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods By Michael T. Murray, Joseph PIZZORNO, Lara Pizzorno.
[18] Fruit and vegetable phytochemicals: chemistry, nutritional value, and stability By Laura A. de la Rosa, Emilio Alvarez-Parrilla, Gustavo A. González-Aguilar.