From childhood on, professionals and parents encourage kids to include fruit as a part of a healthy diet. I remember being taught the ever changing food table, recommended daily servings, and hearing, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ In an effort to reach my fruit quota for the day, I would sometimes pack an apple in my lunch for school. If I cut the apple in the morning, by the time I got ready to eat it, it would be all brown. After making observations such as the smell and texture of the fruit, I made the decision that the fruit was still good to eat, despite it’s rotting color. Just as Andrew taught us about risk, I weighed the cost of eating the fruit:
|Eating the apple||The apple is bad and I get sick.||The apple is fine and I get the nutrients from the apple.|
|Not eating the apple||The apple is bad and I avoid getting sick.||The apple is fine and I miss out on the nutrients.|
I ate the apple because I decided it would be worth the risk. Because science builds upon knowledge that already exists, I also decided to eat the apple because I had seen people eat an apple that turned brown after being cut, and not get sick.
Typically, when naturally bright foods turn brown, it is bad news. Why does this not hold true for apples? According to Lynne McLandsborough, it all has to do with something in apples called o-quinones. Once an apple is cut and interacts with the air, certain enzymes oxidize compound that react with the o-quinones, which cause the brown color.
Another fruit that I notice has a similar reaction is avocado. I had not had much experience with avocados until much later in life compared to apples. I noticed their browning when I opened a container of guacamole that had been made the day before. The top layer of the dish was all brown. In this case, my sister encouraged me it was not bad, but I chose not to eat the brown part. The risk of eating the guacamole seemed bigger to me because I was not as familiar with that food. I could not make any observations that would confirm or deny the quality of the fruit as I did with the apple.
Avocados appear to be a much different fruit compared to apples, but Compound Interest explains how the browning occurs in a similar way. In avocados, the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, once in contact with oxygen, helps quinones form polyphenols. The polyphenols are the mechanism that causes the brown color.
I took the risk and ate the browning fruit, but many other people do not. Anastasia Bodnar explains how scientists have created modified apples to avoid the browning color. It will be interesting to see how produce may transform in the next few years to get rid of or reduce browning in fruits such as apples despite its harmlessness.