Many people tend to overlook the nutritive value of fruits and vegetables that they consume and go by just the appearance. However, nutritionists and doctors say what looks glossy may be deceiving.

Chennai receives most of its vegetables and fruits from areas as far as 100 kilometres away, according to wholesale traders in Koyambedu. The market gets about 350 lorries of fruits and vegetables every day. “We rarely store the produce as there is no facility to store them,” said Koyambedu Market Management Committee member V.R. Soundararajan. G. Vanitha, who regularly buys from Koyambedu market, said “I shop for vegetables and fruits in the market during mornings as they are fresh. I have also begun purchasing vegetables from organic shops besides growing some in a home garden.”

Doctors and nutritionists said consuming raw vegetables are safer compared to fruits with edible skin. Fruits are often waxed and artificially coloured to make them look fresh.

Nutritional therapist Meenakshi Bajaj said that besides addition of preservatives and pesticides used to lengthen their shelf life, the artificial sweetener, ‘Saccharin', is injected into fruits before ripening to induce taste. Consumption of such fruits is not advisable, particularly for pregnant women. People consuming such fruits may suffer health problems such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain and in the long term, there is a risk of cancer.

In case of green vegetables, those with glossy green leaves may actually have more pesticide content, she said. Packed cut vegetables sold in the market are most preferred by people who want to save time. However, it may be hygienically unsafe and there is also a risk of bacterial infection.

While fruits must be consumed uncut, people must cook and eat cut vegetables as soon as possible instead of refrigeration to avoid nutrition loss, Ms. Bajaj added. Government agencies conduct raids on artificially ripened fruits. However, a proper standard must be introduced to avoid sale of unhealthy produce and those with export quality must be checked for their authenticity, suggested nutritionists.