Fruit and vegetables - from raw materials to beneficial effects on health


Start 1. January 2009
End 31. December 2012
Funded by Foundation for Research Levy on Agricultural Products

The recommendations of the World Health Organisation are based on research results which clearly show that a diet beneficial to health is rich in "green foods" - food based on raw materials from plants, such as fruit, berries, vegetables, legumes, herbs/spices and nuts. These recommendations, however, are pretty general and say nothing of what actually happens in these products during processes, storage and preparation before the food is eaten.

Strategic institute programme

Increased focus on fruit and veg

The challenges facing the Norwegian food industry in coming years include increased speed in innovation, the production of food and healthy food with an even and high quality, products with effects that are documented to be beneficial to health and sustainable production. The research in this programme aims to give us increased knowledge of typical Norwegian fruits, berries and vegetables through the value chain, from raw material to the health effects of food. There are still major challenges and possibilities in this area which we feel deserve an even greater focus. This is why fruit and vegetables have become a separate research programme for the coming period.

Increased product variation = increased consumption

Even though consumption has increased in later years, a doubling in the consumption of fruit and vegetables would still be beneficial. Research reveals that a large part of adults and children still do not eat vegetables or fruit daily. In order for more consumers to achieve a healthy diet with more vegetables, fruit and berries, we must offer them a wide variety of raw materials and products of optimal sensory and healthy quality.

Mapping bioactive plant substances

The reason why fruit, berries and vegetables have a positive effect on our bodies and on our health is their content of a wide variety of bioactive plant substances. In addition, they give us more fibre and less energy. As yet, far from all these substances have been chemically mapped, and little is known of what effects the many thousands of compounds have on our bodies. This programme will continue the work on mapping the content and variation of plant substances which have shown promising, beneficial effects on health. This means focus on the substance groups polyphenols, glucosinolates, carotenoids, tocols and phytosterols, which we will study using liquid and gas chromatography with UV, fluorescence and mass spectrometry detection (HPLC/UV, LC/MS and GC/MS).

What happens during storage and processing?

In order to develop optimal products, we need knowledge on what effects storage, industrial processing and preparation have on the quality and content with a beneficial effect on health. The aim of our research is to lead to increased understanding of what happens with fruit, berries and vegetables and their contents from they are harvested, stored and until they are processed in various ways. Better use of pressed remains, new storage and processing methods will be studied and new analysis methods such as metabolomics will be used in our research.

Effects on health

Antioxidants have become a familiar term with both consumers and the industry, and new products and raw materials with a high antioxidant content have been developed based on our knowledge of products and raw materials. Recent research reveals a more nuanced picture of the effects that antioxidants have on the body. Until now, we have worked on chemical modelling systems for antioxidant effects in order to predict potential health effects of the products on humans. In this new programme, we will study potential health effects by using biological testing systems based on cell cultures and models of digestion and the gut. Furthermore, we will perform advanced studies of the effect and mechanisms of effect of both pure plant substances and extracts from processed foods as we eat them, where a number of different ingredients are mixed and work together.

Cooperation is alpha and omega

We will increase our collaboration with medical and nutritional research centres, where human diet studies are performed, in order to meet the business' needs for more nuanced and real documentation of the ingredients and beneficial effects of vegetable foods. The results of our research will be conveyed and converted to new and/or improved raw materials to healthy and innovative products and meals by the industry.

None Photo: Kjell J. Merok
Copyright: Nofima

What makes green vegetables so healthy?

What makes green vegetables so healthy?

What is the secret behind antioxidants?

What is the secret behind antioxidants?

Relevant news

  • Healthy substances in curly kale identified

    1. October 2012

    Curly kale is full of healthy substances, and some of them have an inhibiting effect on the growth of cancer cells. Ph.D. student Helle Olsen of the Norwegian food research institute Nofima is now the first to identify a number of polyphenols - a group of health-promoting substances found in curly kale.