Growing up with the saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it is largely understood that fruit is good and valuable to health. Fruit has a generous offering of fibre, vitamins, and simple sugars and, coupled with the fact that it's delicious, it is at the forefront of my approved snack foods list. 

banana, vegetable
Photo by Abigail Wang

However, I'm sure we've all had to wait various lengths of time for our fruit haul to ripen. Never have I decided to peel back the green peel of an underripe banana and taken a bite of its bland, starchy flesh. 

So the question is: are there any nutritious reasons to favour ripe over unripe fruit?

sweet, vegetable, juice, berry
Anna Hirschorn

And the answer is that it depends. There are two types of fruit: climateric and non-climateric

A climateric fruit is fruit that continues to ripen after being harvested; some examples being apples, bananas, and melons. As it continues ripening, it has a higher rate of respiration, which causes nutrient loss the longer it ripens for. 

On the other hand, non-climateric fruit, like grapes, strawberries, and pineapple, does not continue ripenening once picked, and the respiration rate remains the same as before. 

The good news is that there are other merits to ripe fruit.

There are a number of antioxidants present in fruit. For those of you who need a reminder of chemistry, antioxidants combat oxidation reactions, which create cell-damaging molecules called free radicals.

apple, pasture, juice
Photo by Maggie Gorman
An interesting study has found that, in apples and pears, the ripening process creates colourless decomposition products that are highly active antioxidants. 

Another benefit of ripe fruit are anthocyanins found in fruits that have deep reds, blues, and purples. For example, as berries ripen, these anti-inflammatory pigments are more present and help protect brain function and protect against CVD and cancer. If that's the case, then I can forgive blueberries for heavily staining my fingers whenever I eat them.

It's obvious to anyone who has eaten fruit that they are sweeter when ripe, but now you know there's even more reason to wait for them to ripen than just tastebud satisfaction. So, while the nutrients of fruit may decrease the more you leave it in your fruit bowl, there are some benefits to ripened fruit that balance the cons.