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Keywords:

  • antioxidant;
  • phenolics;
  • carotenoids;
  • vitamin C;
  • nutrition

ABSTRACT: Public awareness of the purported health benefits of dietary antioxidants has increased the demand for fruit and vegetable products with recognized and improved antioxidant quality and has created new opportunities for the horticulture and food industry to improve fruit and vegetable quality by enhancing antioxidant content. This review describes the production and processing factors that influence the content of the major fruit and vegetable antioxidants, namely vitamin C, carotenoids, and phenolics. There is substantial genetic variation in the content of each of these antioxidant types among fruit and vegetable cultivars. Compared with vitamin C and carotenoids, the levels of phenolic antioxidants appear to be more sensitive to environmental conditions both before and after harvest. Although vitamin C can be readily lost during fresh storage, the content of certain carotenoids and phenolics can actually increase during suitable conditions of fresh storage. Vitamin C and phenolics are more susceptible to loss during processing, especially by leaching from plant tissues into processing water. The combination of cultivar variation and responsiveness to specific environmental conditions can create opportunities for the production and processing of fruits and vegetables with improved antioxidant properties.