I Love Ugly Fruit – Why Being Superficial When It Comes To Fruit Is So Passé.
Updated: Jul 20
Before there were supermarkets and before there was an attraction to attractive, we had access to many different shapes and types of fruit and vegetables. But somehow over time, we became so bogged down with getting the prettiest and most attractive fruit that we have actually lost sight of the reality: that fruit and vegetables all come in a variety of shapes and sizes and that we should eat these regardless. In fact, read on to discover the evidence that suggests that these particular ugly items can be even better for us than their prettier counterparts!
Let’s not get confused though: we aren’t talking about:
rotten fruit or
damaged fruit (with cuts/holes in it)
What we are talking about is ugly fruit: the apples that are a funny shape with a double head, or the peppers that have a smaller baby pepper growing inside it.
Certified to be organic:
Ugly fruit tends to be a sure fire way of reaffirming that the fruit and vegetables were grown organically. Ugly fruit had to endure stress and are not genetically enhanced for better-optimized aesthetics or bare scars the from attack of pests (and winning in the face of these pests). That’s pretty natural.
Fruit with blemishes have more antioxidants and nutrients:
A meta analysis of 343 studies in 2004₁ found that organic produce had lower pesticide residue and a 20 to 40 percent higher antioxidant content than conventional produce₂. Take that a step further and investigate the ugly: ugly fruit with blemishes were shown to have 10-20% more antioxidants₄: that is to say that it has even more nutrients in it from being organic but also from being ugly.
Ugly fruit has more nutrients from being more diverse:
Plants might be free from pesticides and may have evolved with natural selection, but often farmers “artificially select” the best crops and reduce the diversity of the gene pool by only pollinating the prettier fruits. That lower level of biodiversity can sometimes mean fewer nutrients (coupled with less threat of pests from pesticides, so the plant didn’t have to work as hard to survive, and therefore has fewer antioxidants).
Ugly fruit tastes better:
When fruit is under stress it works hard to reproduce and puts more effort and energy into the fruit. That’s why in vineyards the driest parts of the land produce the sweetest wines.
Ugly fruit is better for your immune system (you’ll get sick less frequently!):
There were high fruit acids₃ in fruits that were organic (just like our ugly fruit). It is this higher level of fruit acid that can have particular metabolic benefits from us by the cascade of cellular and protective adaptations that were made at the time of stress. These then have knock-on effects for our health when we consume them: these compounds kick start our cells into repair and restoration.
Eating ugly could also stop world hunger:
The problem with being picky when it comes to the shape of your fruit is that it causes more food wastage. On average, 40% of all calories produced for human consumption are discarded or wasted and according to the United Nations, we waste enough food—globally, 2.9 trillion pounds a year—to feed every one of them more than twice over. That is why there have been a number of European campaigns to help combat this wastage.
The bottom line for fruit and veggies seems to be that if stressed by insects or disease, or simply grown with the diversity that nature intended, we can get even more benefit from the food, and have a clear conscience that we are not contributing to food wastage.₅
So how do you choose ugly fruit and veggies?
Fresh is best! Which is why buying in season is best (as it doesn’t have to travel as far before being housed on the shelf at the supermarket).
If you want a variety of foods outside of what is in season, sometimes you might consider frozen, as it can be snap frozen at the source and at peak ripeness in order to maintain and preserve the nutrients.
Eat the skin: Skin has more nutrients in it and is higher in fiber. When you eat a plant that has been sprayed with pesticides, the skin has absorbed a lot of the pesticides too. But if you are eating ugly, spray free organic fruit, you can and should eat the skin of your apples/sweet potato (perhaps stop short of eating banana peel or melon skin).
Use your senses: Whilst it is comforting to refer to sell by and best before dates on processed foods, fresh produce doesn’t have an exact length of time to store by. Instead, use your senses to determine whether something is good to eat or not: it cannot be understated the power of touch, scent and taste. If something feels strange or smells funny… Don’t eat it! And if it passes the touch and scent test but tastes strange, don’t continue to eat it.