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March 17, 2010 | 2 minute read

Storing Spinach May Make it Healthier

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and that means a lot of green. Time for a green-vegetable study on one of the greenest: spinach.

Last week a study found that fluorescent lighting in supermarkets can actually boost the nutritional value of fresh spinach. Spinach is especially high in chlorophyll, a green pigment found in almost all plants. (Chlorophyll, if  you’ll recall from high school, is what plants use in photosynthesis.)

chlorophyll; a vital and green molecule

Supermarkets typically keep fresh spinach in clear plastic containers under constant fluorescent lighting, and so the scientists simulated these conditions. After exposing fresh spinach leaves to light or darkness for three to nine days, the spinach stored in light measured significantly higher levels of vitamins C, K, E, and folate after only three days. The light-exposed spinach also had higher levels of the  carotenoid compounds lutein and zeaxanthin. By contrast, spinach leaves exposed to darkness had declining or unchanged levels of nutrients.

On the down side, continuous light exposure did lead to wilting.

The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; you can read the abstract here.

To read about how the compounds in spinach — and other healthful foods — play a role in cancer prevention, take a look at Eating Smart for Cancer Prevention.

Have a favorite green vegetable (or other healthy food)? Share.

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