Evie asks: “Is fruit more nutritious when ripe than unripe? For example, would a green banana have less potassium than a yellow one?”
The nutritional content of fruits (including those fruits we think of as vegetables) absolutely changes as the fruit ripens. Whether you would consider it more or less nutritious might depend on your definition, though!
As fruit ripens, its sugar content goes up. More sugar means more calories, of course. Technically, that means that ripe fruit provides more nutrition. (Sometimes we forget that sugar is a nutrient!)
[bctt tweet=”Even though technically less nutritious, eating slightly underripe bananas may have advantages!” username=”nutritiondiva”]
Green bananas and mangoes, in particular, contain a lot of resistant starch, which is not digested in our intestines–at least, not by us. Although our bodies don’t get any nutrition from resistant starch, it does provide a valuable food source for beneficial bacteria in the gut. As these fruit ripen, more of these starches are converted to sugar. Even though they are technically less “nutritious,” eating your bananas a little on the green side might have advantages!
The level of most minerals doesn’t change very much as fruit ripens. So the amount of potassium in a green banana is likely to be the same as in a ripe one.
Antioxidants, on the other hand, tend to increase as fruit ripens. The vitamin C content of a red (i.e., ripe) bell pepper is 50% higher than that of a green bell pepper, while the vitamin A content is almost 10 times higher .
Finally, remember that there are lots of other factors that also affect the levels of nutrients in your produce, including the cultivar or strain, the soil composition, growing conditions, and how it is stored after it is harvested.