Why You Should Consider Buying the “Ugly” Vegetables
Some shoppers get excited about a stroll through the produce section at the supermarket — an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables are eye-catching in their bold, beautiful colors. Most people are conditioned at a young age to select the most perfect piece of fruit, sifting through cartons for unblemished options.
However, there’s nothing wrong with buying ugly produce. In fact, defective edible goods may come with even greater health and environmental benefits.
The World Has a Waste Problem
The United Nations Environment Programme Food Waste Index Report 2021 says global food waste reached 931 million tons in 2019 — 61% derived from household waste and 13% from retail. The United States alone throws out 40% of its food supply annually — equal to 63 million tons.
Food waste underscores the world’s problem with trash in general. In 2018, food accounted for 24.14% of the 146.1 million tons of landfilled garbage in the U.S. Considering landfills are overflowing and polluting the environment, this poses significant ecological risks.
Part of the problem is people’s aversion to produce with cosmetic imperfections. Nearly 30% of crop yields get discarded yearly for being “ugly,” costing retailers $15.4 billion in edible goods.
Global waste habits also impact the food system. With nearly 828 million people facing hunger in 2021, the Food and Agricultural Organization suggests diverting food waste could improve food security for 1.26 million people annually.
The Case for Ugly Vegetables and Fruits
It’s best not to turn your nose up at ugly produce when you’re at the store. Here are three reasons you might consider purchasing fruits and vegetables with defects.
1. Ugly Fruits Have Health Benefits
Eating more fruits and vegetables is good for your health. Plant-based eating is especially beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. Additionally, 30% to 60% of adults have vein disease, in which many cases are caused by obesity.
While it’s common to want to purchase the freshest, most nutrient-dense vegetables in the store, ugly fruits and vegetables are perfectly fine. Actually, they may be even more nutritious for you.
Marred produce is a sign of ripening — studies have shown ripened fruits and vegetables are more nutritious and sweeter than unripened ones. For example, mature strawberries have higher anthocyanin content — meaning they contain more antioxidants to inhibit free radicals in the body. A buildup of free radicals could bring about heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, whereas a healthy diet often provides excellent preventative measures.
2. They’re Usually Cheaper
Additionally, defective foods may be easier on your wallet. About 58% of consumers are willing to purchase ugly fruits and vegetables at a discount. Fortunately, there are places where you can. Some supermarkets mark imperfect produce down, selling them in singles, while farmers’ markets also tend to have better prices for in-season goods.
Many local farmers utilize organic agricultural practices, producing better but uglier goods. Because livestock agriculture accounts for 71% of food emissions, eating a plant-based diet with farmers’ market produce benefits the environment and the local economy.
3. You’ll Eat Them Quicker
You’re also more likely to eat ugly food quickly instead of letting it sit on your counter for too long before forgetting it’s there. Of course, if you purchase unripe vegetables and fruits, there are ways to ripen them quicker. For example, putting a green banana in a paper bag with an apple will ripen the fruit overnight.
Buying ugly vegetables should become the new normal. Eating more unsightly produce can reduce food waste, improve food security, as well as enhance health and well-being.
Commit to Zero Waste By Buying Ugly Produce
More consumers have shown increasing interest in sustainability, altering their buying habits for the environment’s sake. Purchasing ugly vegetables and fruits at the supermarket is one way buyers can continue their journey toward eco-friendliness. The next time you go grocery shopping, consider purchasing blemished produce instead of unripe items. It’ll improve your commitment to zero-waste living.