HOUSTON -

Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients and antioxidants, but putting them in a dark refrigerator alters their health benefits.

Rice University Chair of Biochemistry, Janet Braam, said, “It may be that certain times of day those vegetables and fruits have more health value, more nutritional value.”

Braam found that even after fruits and vegetables have been harvested, their biological clocks keep ticking, responsive to circadian rhythms.

A time lapse video shows that when fruits and vegetables are stored under normal day/night light cycles, their ability to produce the chemicals with important anti-cancer effects increases two-fold over the course of the day.

“I think the finding is significant because it suggest the possibility that if we pay attention to the circadian rhythms even of post harvest fruits and vegetables that we may be able to improve the nutritional value of those fruits and vegetables,” Braam said.

The Rice and University of California-Davis study is being published in Thursday's journal "Current Biology."

So we wanted to know, when is the best time for us to eat our fruits and veggies? Braam says more research needs to be done to figure out what time of day valuable nutrients and antioxidants are at their peak. And whether crops should be harvested and frozen or preserved at certain times.