Getting your five a day can be hard enough.
But in addition to just eating fruits and vegetables, it can also be important to choose one that is at the perfect stage of ripeness.
Waiting for blackberries to ripen can increase the fruit’s immune-boosting benefits, while speckled bananas are the most sugar-laden variety.
And if you don’t leave oranges in the fruit bowl for too long, you can ensure that the citrus is eaten when the vitamin C content is theoretically highest.
Here, experts tell MailOnline which fruits you should eat ripe – and why.
How ripe your fruit is can affect how much vitamins you get out of it. Although in small amounts of vitamin C, antioxidants and sugar levels change as fruit ripens
Wait until the blackberries are ripe and juicy
It is believed that blackberries get better with age, but not just because they become juicier and tastier.
The summer berry also develops more compounds with antioxidant properties.
Tai Ibitoye, a registered dietitian based in London, explains that this effect is due to an antioxidant called anthocyanins, which gives them their deep purple hue.
Found in other dark, red or purple berries, the darker the fruit, the more antioxidant it contains.
Ms Ibitoye said: ‘As blackberries ripen, the antioxidant content increases by a factor of four, but the mechanism by which this happens is not so clear.’
According to Ms. Ibitoye, the increased levels of antioxidants can help your body fight disease.
She said, “Antioxidants help fight free radicals, which are harmful substances in the body that can cause disease, such as cardiovascular disease.”
Blackberries contain a certain antioxidant called anthocyanins. It’s these powerful antioxidants that give blackberries their deep purple hue, and they can be found in other dark, red or purple berries. Dietitians say antioxidants have the potential to help fight disease
The health-promoting effect of ripe blackberries was confirmed in 2004 studypublished in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Food scientists at Oregon State University tested the anthocyanin content in two different varieties of blackberries as they ripened.
The antioxidant content in the fruit ranged from 74.7 mg/100 g when underripe to 317 mg when overripe for marion blackberries and from 69.9 mg to 164 mg for evergreen blackberries.
However, there is one caveat.
Our bodies aren’t very good at absorbing this particular antioxidant, according to dietitian Dr Duane Mellor of Aston University in Birmingham.
He said: ‘If you look at the purple pigments in blackberries, they are quite large molecules and are not absorbed as easily.
‘Although there are many antioxidants in the fruit, they are not always available to us.’
For that reason, the amount we can actually absorb from the fruit is very small.
But blackberries also bring a host of other health benefits. They are also high in vitamin C and potassium.
Dr. Mellor emphasizes that eating different colored foods is key to getting a mix of these compounds.
Oranges may be too ripe
Like antioxidants in blackberries, oranges also get a boost in the ripening phase produce more vitamin C.
“It’s not clear why it happens, but vitamin C may increase due to the weather or the ripeness of the fruit,” said Ms Ibitoye.
In fact, other citrus fruits also increase vitamin C, but not as much as oranges.
That is according to a 2017 study by a Nigerian university published in the International Journal of Environment, Agriculture and Biotechnology.
It found that oranges’ vitamin C content was at its highest concentration when it became ‘semi-ripe’ and then decreased slightly as the fruit became ‘ripe’.
The same pattern was also seen in lemons, but the concentration of vitamin C was lower.
However, according to Dr. Mellor, the vitamin continues to increase in peppers and pineapples.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in protecting cells, maintaining healthy skin and bones and helping wounds heal, according to the NHS.
However, the changes in vitamin C are so small that they are unlikely to make a noticeable difference to your health.
But the way you store and cook the fruit matters when it comes to vitamin levels.
In the photo freshly squeezed oranges next to a cup full of vitamin C tablets. As oranges reach their ripening stage, they produce more vitamin C, but once ripe, that level can drop again
Dr. Mellor said, “When fruit slowly dies and decomposes in cupboards or in the refrigerator, vitamin C is broken down.
“If you cut a potato, it will brown, but the more vitamin C, the slower it will brown after cutting. Newer potatoes contain more vitamin C than older potatoes. The same goes for apples.
“That’s why you should keep things in the fridge so they don’t break down the same way.”
Adults need 40 mg of vitamin C a day, say health chiefs.
But you shouldn’t worry too much about the vitamin C content of your fruit and how ripe it is, because eating just one orange, whether just ripe or overripe, will provide more than enough.
Mrs. Ibitoye said, “You shouldn’t worry too much about how ripe the fruit is, as all fruits contain healthy vitamins, but how you prepare food is important.”
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so the content in foods will drop drastically when cooked.
Instead, Ms. Ibitoye says we should eat fruits and vegetables in their raw form or steamed, as this cooking process locks in the vitamin C.
The best of bananas
It’s not just the taste and texture that changes as bananas ripen, they also become more sugary.
As with all fruits, bananas break down starch into simple sugars, such as sucrose, glucose and fructose, as they ripen.
These are more easily absorbed into the bloodstream, which can cause a spike in blood sugar, according to Debra Williams, a registered dietitian who runs a private clinic called Eat Well Now.
This makes bananas a perfect snack for those looking for a quick source of energy before exercise, says Dr. Mellor.
While the increase in sugar won’t change the calorie content of the fruit, it can pose a problem for people with diabetes.
As bananas ripen, the breakdown of starch increases, which is converted into simple sugars such as sucrose, glucose and fructose, which are more easily and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Ms Williams said: ‘It’s something to bear in mind if you have diabetes as ideally you want to consume carbohydrates that are absorbed more slowly.
‘For diabetics it is best to have bananas that are even more unripe.’
Unlike the sugar content, bananas’ mineral content rarely changes during the ripening process, she said.
For example, green bananas contain a similar amount of potassium as yellow bananas.
But unripe bananas contain more fiber and resistant starch — a carbohydrate that feeds good bacteria in the gut.
Dr. Mellor said, “With an unripe green banana you get several semi-digestible carbohydrates that can be good for gut health.”
He suggests eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, but recommends not eating too many sweet and very ripe tropical fruits because of their high sugar content.