When it comes to produce, it's what's on the inside that really counts.
When it comes to produce, most of us behave like Goldilocks: We want the peppers and peaches that look just right. That pickiness may contribute to the truckloads of food waste generated each year. But looks aren't everything. Oddball fruit and veggies are just as nutritious as their pageant-worthy cousins—and often more delicious, says Rachel Beller, RD, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist and founder of the Beller Nutritional Institute.
"Look, any kind of produce—both fresh and frozen—adds value to our diets," she says. "Many people fall short of getting enough fruits and vegetables, so discriminating against imperfect produce will further compromise their intake."
And less-than-perfect fruits and veggies are still fine to eat, Beller assures—even if they're not super fresh. "Produce is valuable no matter what, because it's produce," she explains. "This stuff is good for you." A bruise on a piece of fruit, for example, may be a sign that it's injured in that area or beginning to spoil, but "why not just cut it out and eat the rest?"
Same goes for slightly soft fruits and veggies. "If produce has been sitting around for awhile, it may have less nutritional value, but that's not a reason to discard it," Beller says. "Newer is better than older, but it's still good."
One effort to reverse the waste: Whole Foods Market has partnered with Imperfect Produce—a startup that delivers misshapen or undersize produce to your door at a low cost—to offer “ugly” fruits and veggies at some of the chain’s Northern California locations.
Next time you’re shopping, remember: As far as nutrition goes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts!