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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Are seedless fruits harmful to consume?

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Claim: Fruits without seeds should not be consumed because they are dangerous.

Verdict: MISLEADING. Whether a fruit has seed or not does not change its nutritional benefit or make it dangerous for consumption.

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Fruits are an important part of a healthy meal plan because they are a great source of minerals and vitamins like potassium and antioxidants. Most fruits have seeds, and those we think do not, such as cucumber, avocados, and olives, have pits. 

However, on Thursday, 1 February, an X user, ChiefHerbalist (@HerbalistChief), shared images of some fruits, advising that they should not be consumed if they are seedless. 

“If it is seedless, don’t eat it,” the post caption reads.

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As of Monday, 5 February, the post had generated 2,577 reposts, 121 quotes, 9,374 likes, 534 bookmarks, and over 886,000 views.

This stirred varying reactions. While some users made fun of this information, another user was worried and questioned the basis of the statement.

Ajith Kumar (@im_zith), making light of the situation, wrote, “If You Eat a Seedless Fruit You Will Become a Seedless Man- Nithyanandha.”

Dennis Adison Ouma (@DrDennisOuma), on the other hand, wrote:  “Why?.. Do you have any academic/professional expertise in the field of food sciences and nutrition? This is absolutely misleading nutritional information. This is the problem  of pseudo-science in this  era of social media.”

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Reacting to Mr Ouma’s comment, the claimant noted he does not need academic expertise to have common sense.

“I don’t have any academic expertise in food science, but I have COMMON SENSE, not like you who have (sic) been programmed not to think for yourself but to follow what the system teaches you.”

This controversy prompted us to verify the assertion.

Are there seedless fruits?

Most fruits have seeds naturally, but some do not. Usually, fruit development begins when one or more egg cells in the ovular compartment of flowers are fertilised by sperm nuclei from pollen. However, in a condition called parthenocarpy, the fruit develops without fertilisation.

The Short Order Cook noted two ways fruits can be produced without seeds: through parthenocarpy or stenospermocarpy (a process where the maturity process of a seed is cut short). Some fruits that could fall into the two categories are bananas, grapes, lemons, lime, oranges, pineapple, tomato, and watermelon. 

The Scientific American agrees that the most common reasons for the lack of seed development are pollination failure or nonfunctional eggs or sperm. 

According to Michigan State University, seedless plants are uncommon, but they exist naturally or through genetic engineering techniques. However, this report by the university notes that no seedless plants are genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

According to an article by Scientific American that quoted Benjamin Burr and Frances Burr, both biologists at Brookhaven National Laboratory, parthenocarpic fruit has advantages over seeded fruit. Part of these merits are a longer shelf life and greater consumer appeal.

Piedmont Master Gardeners added that seedless oranges, grapes, and watermelons are less messy and more enjoyable to eat, eliminating digestion issues for many. With the above features deemed attractive, humans found ways to take advantage of natural mutations to propagate and preserve this characteristic. 

Are seedless fruits less nutritious or dangerous?

An article by Livestrong noted that seeds in some fruits can be rich sources of nutrients like essential oils, vitamins, and minerals. An example of this is Grape seeds that contain phytoestrogens.

Seeds are also good sources of fibre, suppressing appetite, stabilising blood glucose levels, and increasing bowel activity. Fruits without seeds cannot provide these benefits. The Michigan State University noted that seedlessness may or may not change the character of the fruit. However, because seeds in fruit can help draw energy and nutrients into the fruit, they can change characteristics such as nutrient and sugar levels, fruit size, fruit number, time of maturity, and others. 

We reached out to a nutritionist, Temilade Omotoso, about seedless fruits, and she noted the presence or absence of seeds does not change the content of the fruit.

“Regardless of whether a fruit has seeds or not, as long as the fruit is still whole and not gotten bad, then it’s safe for consumption.”

Explaining her experience with seedless fruits, she said, “…I’ve eaten seedless oranges quite several times, and this does not in any way affect the fruit’s vitamins, minerals, and fibre content.

We also found a fact-check by USA Today in 2022 on the health risks of consuming seedless watermelon. According to the findings, no known safety risks are associated with eating seedless watermelons.

Conclusion

Although most fruits come with seeds, some do not due to parthenocarpy or stenospermocarpy, but this does not change the content or make it dangerous for consumption.

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