How to Pick Healthy, Tasty Food at the Grocery Store
In the supermarket, you’re drawn to the brightly lit refrigerated case – not only because of its cool glow, but because you want foods and beverages that are fresh and healthy.
The fluorescent and LED lighting used by grocery stores to showcase milk and other products can have undesirable side effects, according to recent research at Virginia Tech.1
According to Susan Duncan, PhD, RD, of VA Tech2:
“One of the nutrients in milk — riboflavin — oxidizes when it is exposed to fluorescent lights. This reaction not only causes the taste to change, but can also reduce the nutritional content of milk…in as little as two hours.”
After spending just two hours under the dairy section’s lights, milk can lose its naturally sweet, rich flavor and many health-fortifying nutrients, to boot.
Here are a few of the vitamins and nutrients3 that are vulnerable to the ultraviolent (UV) light that fluorescent bulbs create:
- Vitamin A is critical for eye health and contributes to organ development, tissue repair, and immune system response.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) plays a big part in energy production and helps activate other vitamins.
- Vitamin B6 aids in metabolizing glucose and synthesizing both blood pigment and neurotransmitters.
- Vitamin B12 is necessary for healthy red blood cell formation, nervous system development, and DNA synthesis.
- Folic acid assists in the development of genetic material.
(These seem like things you’d want your food to contain, right?)
UV light even accelerates the destructive interaction between vitamins. For example, both folic acid and vitamin C degrade more rapidly in the combined presence of riboflavin and light.4
How can you preserve food flavor and nutritional value?
Clear containers expose foods to UV light, and therefore, can degrade nutrients and taste in beverages with molecules, like the ones above, that are photosensitive. The solution? Choose food containers that block out the light.
To quote Duncan again:
“Paperboard gable top cartons offer light-blocking benefits.”
So, next time you’re at the grocery store and feel drawn to the radiant lights of the refrigerated beverage section, consider choosing beverages in cartons.
- “Virginia Tech Researchers: New LED Display Lights Improve Taste of Milk.” Virginia Tech. N.p., 6 Dec. 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2016/12/cals-milk.html>.
- Susan E. Duncan, PhD, RD, is a professor of Food Science and Technology at VA Tech and the coauthor of “Retail lighting and packaging influence consumer acceptance of fluid milk”, Journal of Dairy Science, 2017.
- Ross, A. Catharine. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2014. Print.
- “Exposure of fluid milk to LED light negatively affects consumer perception and alters underlying sensory properties.” Department of Food Science, Cornell University, 2016.