When bugs eat holes in the leaves of our crops, the plants produce more antioxidants!
When insects eat holes in the leaves of fruit and veggie crops, the plants’ stress response creates more antioxidants, a new study finds.
“The claim that organic agriculture produces higher levels of phytochemicals has been controversial for decades,” the study’s authors write.
But now, the researchers have “proved” the claim is true and can explain why, they say.
“There was the existing idea that insects present in the field could cause a stress response and increase antioxidant compounds,” said Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, horticulture scientist at Texas A&M University.
“However, this hypothesis or concept was never tested until now.”
The researchers mimicked the damage caused by insects, by puncturing holes in strawberry leaves.
When they harvested the fruit a few days later, they found significantly higher levels of antioxidants:
- Ellagic acid, known to fight colon cancer, increased by 58%.
- Neuroprotective gallic acid increased by 68%.
- Epicatechin, which reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance, incerased by 100%.
- The flavanoid rutin, which helps with Vitamin C absorption, by 137%. Studies have found it to be anticarcinogenic, neuroprotective and cardioprotective.
- Anti-inflammatory and anti-viral quercetin increased by 190%.