Why does lemon juice prevent apples from turning brown?

Written by elizabeth mott
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Why does lemon juice prevent apples from turning brown?
Lemon juice helps preserve cut fruit. (sliced apple image by odze from Fotolia.com)

Apples, bananas and other fruits and vegetables with pale pulp start to turn brown when they are sliced or peeled. This process, known as oxidative browning, results when pigments in the food oxidise and trigger enzymes that accelerate chemical reactions.

Ascorbic Acid

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) halts the process of oxidative browning efficiently because it is an antioxidant that stops the enzymatic reaction. It is used commercially as a fruit preservative when sliced fresh apples are sold in refrigerated packages.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice contains citric acid, which halts oxidative browning by slowing the enzymatic reaction that produces it, though not as efficiently as ascorbic acid. Lemon juice often is used to keep apples fresh when they are peeled and sliced.

Other Substances

Sulphur dioxide and sugar syrup also keep fruit looking fresh. Sulphur dioxide stops oxidation by removing the oxygen necessary for browning. Sugar syrup, long used in preserving canned fruit, also prevents browning by blocking oxygen.

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