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HOUSTON Vegetables have an internal clock that controls the production of chemicals that help fight cancer in humans and help defend the plant from insects, Rice University researchers said.

It may be better to eat certain types of vegetables at one time of day, versus another to get the most value out of them, said Rice University biologist Janet Braam.

The plant s clock is set by Mother Nature and it keeps ticking even after it s harvested.

Vegetables and fruits don t die the moment they are harvested, said Braam. They respond to their environment for days, and we found we could use light to coax them to make more cancer-fighting antioxidants at certain times of day.

But the researchers said they re still not sure what time of day is best to eat cabbage.

Linda Boleware loves vegetables.

If I knew I was going to get the most nutrition out of it at 3 o clock today, I would eat it at 3 o clock today, she said.

The studies at Rice University believe many other vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and zucchini also have clocks.

Scientists conducted experiments showing a plant s clock can also be reset by the amount of light it receives.

In theory, a person may someday be able to reset a plant s clock at their home so it can be eaten at dinner time.

The discovery is a major breakthrough.

Understanding how vegetables produce cancer fighting chemical agents may help them be more beneficial than ever.

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