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Structural and Chemical Properties of Vegetables and Fruits

Maggie Gallagher

NTR 211

February 20th, 2018


Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our diet and can be presented and

cooked in a variety of ways. A common concern while cooking fruits and vegetables is

vitamin and mineral loss, flavor retention and maintaining the structural integrity of the plant

for consumption. Although fruits and vegetables are ubiquitous in the food industry, it is

important to understand their many structural and chemical components. When cooking or

heating fruits/vegetables it is good to know the relationship between the poly-phenolic

compounds and the structural tissue within these plants and how they react with heat (Walter

& Beathard, 2015, 105). These factors depend on the time and temperature the food is

cooked at.

There are a variety of ways to experiment with the effects of heat on fruits and

vegetables. There may be palpable changes in color, appearance and even subtle differences

in the water the food is cooked in. We can also observe the effects of additives such as real or

artificial sugar while taking note of any textural or pH changes. Acidic and basic substances

may also change the chemical compounds in fruits and vegetables. There are many structural,

chemical and poly-phenolic differences between fruits and vegetables and many factors such

as temperature, pH or the cooking method used that can alter these chemical substances

within the plant. The purpose of this experiment is to observe the effects that cooking time

has on chemical composition, texture, appearance and flavor of fruits and vegetables.

The objective of procedure B is to notice the change in two varieties of apples,

Macintosh and Red Delicious after exposure to water, sugar, and a sugar substitute.

Beginning with two peeled apples, place 2 cups of water on high to boil on the stove until the

apples become tender. The second pot will have one cup of water combined with ¼ cup of

sugar. The third pot will have one cup of water and 1 ¼ cup of sugar substitute (splenda).

Wait until the water comes to a boil and then add the one apple slice of each type of apple

into the pot until soft enough to stick a fork in it. When the apples are finished cooking, the

appearance, texture, flavor and time needed to tenderize should be reported (Walter &

Beathard, 2015, pg 107).

Procedure C looks at the effects of cooking treatments on vegetable pigments. First

clean and divide cauliflower, carrots, cabbage and broccoli into four 5.8 oz portions. Each

vegetable will then be sectioned into 1.2 oz and should be placed into 4 separate stainless

steel pots and one plate. Place the first vegetable portion in boiling water, cover for 3 minutes

and cook for another 25 minutes. The next pot, add 1 cup of water plus 2 teaspoons of tartar.

Then in another pot pour 1 cup of water and ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Using the plate,

cover the vegetable and place in the microwave for 3 minutes with 1 tablespoon of water

added. Lastly, the control group is put into boiling water covered for 3 minutes and cooked

for an additional 7 minutes. The objective of this procedure is to note changes in the

vegetable and also the water it is cooked in (Walter & Beathard, 2015, pg 111).

Table B-1 comparison Effects of Cooking Medium on Apple

Macintosh Apple

Cooking Appearance Texture Flavor Time needed

Medium tenderize
Water White/soggy Soggy, not Not sweet, 5
crunchy watery
Water +1/4 c. White/grainy Soggy/grainy Sweet 5
Water + 1 ¼ c. White/soggy Soft/mushy Splenda 4
splenda overpowers
other flavors

Table B-2 Red Delicious

Cooking Appearance Texture Flavor Time needed

Medium to tenderize
Water Yellow, brown, Rubbery, not sweet, 6
appears crunchy soggy
Water + ¼ c. Yellow, less Rubbery, Sweet, watery 6
sugar watery looking crunchy
Water + 1 ¼ c. Yellow, brown Crunchy, Artificial, 5
splenda bottom grainy sweet, splenda

Table C-1 Effect of Cooking Treatment on Broccoli

Cooking Liquid Vegetable pH of liquid Texture Flavor

Method Appearance Appearance
Control Light green Mushy, dark 7 Mushy Very
green flavorful
25 minutes None Dark green 7 Mushy Burnt

Cream of Clear, cloudy Brown, dark 3 Mushy Burnt

tartar green
Baking soda Vibrant Vibrant 10 Mushy Watery with
yellow green slight flavor
Microwave None burnt 7 Clear, burnt Burnt

Table C-2 Effect of Cooking Treatment on Carrots

Cooking Liquid Vegetable pH of liquid texture flavor

method appearance appearance
Control Light yellow Bright 7 Fairly firm Bland
25 minutes Light yellow Medium 6 Mushy Bland
Cream of clear Light orange 3 Firm Taste cooked
Baking soda Dark yellow Dark orange 12 Mushy Cooked
microwave x Bright 6 Crunchy/hard hard

Table C-3 Effect of Cooking Treatment on Red Cabbage

Cooking Liquid Vegetable pH of liquid Texture Flavor
method appearance appearance
10 minutes Dark blue Blue 9 Softer, More flavor
25 minutes Blue Bright purple 4 Soft, mushy Bitter
Microwave Dark purple Rubbery dark 5 Tough, Bitter
purple rubbery
Soda Dark green Green and 11 Mushy Very bitter
acid Fuchsia pink 3 Soft/flexible Sharp/sour

Table C-4 Effect of Cooking Temperature on Cauliflower

Cooking Liquid Vegetable pH of liquid Texture Flavor

method appearance appearance
Control Clear with Firm white 7 Not too Earthy,
tint of yellow mushy, firm typical
25 minutes Off yellow Shiny off 7 Really Bland, water
white mushy
Cream of White, White 4 Firm, not Sour, acidic
tartar crystals mushy
Baking soda Yellow, Very yellow 10 Mushy Baking soda,
cloudy basic
Microwave X Brown parts, X Dry, chewy, Burnt, sweet
shriveled, dry rubbery

Appearance or how aesthetically pleasing a food is can greatly influence what we

choose to eat. Although fruits and vegetables are used frequently in cooking, many are

unaware of the thousands of polyphenols and enzymes comprised within a plant. When

cooking fruits and vegetables it is important to keep in mind that heat can greatly impact the

texture, flavor and integrity of food. The three categories of pigments in fruits/vegetables

known as chlorophyll, carotenoids and flavonoids may also be altered, creating a different

aesthetic to the food after being cooked (Walter & Beathard, 2015, pg 105). Flavonoids in

particular are sensitive to pH due to their anthocyanin properties, which change color when

cooked in basic and acidic environments (pg 106). Even small differences such as using a lid

when cooking can alter the pH of the liquid based on the amount of steam produced and how

much acid is released during the process. Flavor and textural changes also depend on the

amount of time the food is cooked because when heat is added the pectic substances in the

tissue of the plant will be hydrolyzed and rupture, therefore creating a softer, mushy texture

and watery flavor (Walter & Beathard, 2015, pg. 105). These examples are some of the many

changes that can take place when the chemical composition of a fruit or vegetable is altered

during the cooking process.

As displayed in the results section, cooking can change the physical properties of

fruits and vegetables. The results in procedure B show that both the Red Delicious and

Macintosh apple became soggy and grainy when boiled in water with sugar. The more sugar

added, the sweeter the taste, however the water clearly changed the texture of the food. This

is due to membrane disruption and loss of turgor when an apple is exposed to heat for a short

period of time and therefore becomes soggy and watery tasting (Miglio, C., et al. 2008. Pg
139). The apples with Splenda added tasted significantly sweeter because of the artificial

taste that lingers and then flavors the water filled apple.

Results from procedure C displayed that when cooking carrots, broccoli, cauliflower

and cabbage the colors became darker as cooking time increased. Chlorophyll degradation

occurs in green vegetables due to loss of air and gases in the cells of the plant that are

replaced with water and other cell juices (Miglio, C., et al. 2008. Pg 144). Red/yellow

vegetables like carrots in this case are also likely to lose their carotene pigment as it leaches

into the water and demonstrates lower stability due to hydrolysis when exposed to heat,

therefore becoming mushy with less flavor. The longer the cooking time the more ascorbic

acid is lost within the vegetable, however this is time dependent, thus the less time it is

cooked, fewer phenolic compounds will be lost (pg 144). The broccoli, cabbage and

cauliflower gained more flavor when boiled for a short period of time due the glucosinolate

compounds within the plant that increase slightly when exposed to heat. This occurs when

the plant tissue becomes disintegrated because part of the molecules are bound to the cell

wall and released when the cell structure is broken, therefore increasing flavor as shown in

the results (pg 146). The liquid that these vegetables were cooked in all became rich in color

after being cooked due to the loss of antioxidants and pigmentation that leaches into the

water when the plant is exposed to heat.

When cooked with an acid and base, the pH was shown to change according to what

was added, either baking soda or cream of tartar and became either more basic or acidic. pH

has a profound effect on color of the vegetables. In the presence of heat and acid, the

magnesium atom is replaced with two hydrogen atoms in the chlorophyll molecule, turning

the pigment darker. When exposed to a basic substance, the color becomes bright due to the
enzyme chlorophyllase that hydrolyzes the side chain of chlorophyll and produces a brighter

compound. Although carotenoids are fairly stable in acidic and basic environments, these

results also occurred in the red cabbage and carrots, which turned darker in a basic

environment and brighter in an acidic environment. These colors can range from yellow to

red based on the arrangement of double bonds in the molecule (Walter, J.M., & Beathard, K.

2015. Pg 105).

Knowledge on the effects of cooking fruits and vegetables serves as a valuable

resource for many in the food industry or medical field. Information on appearance, texture,

pH and nutrient changes that occur when exposed to heat can be very useful to a chef in a

restaurant because they know their clients want aesthetically pleasing and flavor rich food. A

Registered Dietitian would need to know the bioavailability left in fruits and vegetables after

being cooked to ensure nutritional quality and plan for minimal vitamin and mineral losses

for their patients. Learning the effects of cooking fruits/vegetables in a basic and acidic

environment is relevant for anyone cooking so they know what to add or decrease based on

the texture, color and taste of the food they want. Cooking has a profound effect on the

appearance, texture, flavor and pH of fruits and vegetables and it is important to observe

these changes in order to understand vitamin and mineral losses as well as changes in

pigmentation and flavor of the food. Cooking time can change the chemical composition of

fruits and vegetables due to the plethora of polyphenols within them. These changes often

occur in the appearance, structure, and taste of the plant and can be observed through various


Miglio, C., Chiavaro, E., Visconti, A., Fogliano, V., & Pellegrini, N. (2008). Effects of
different cooking methods on nutritional and physicochemical characteristics of
selected vegetables. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 56. 1; 139-147

Walter, J.M., & Beathard, K. (2015). Understanding food principles and preparation lab
manual. Standford CT: Cencage Learning, 5. 1-272