Cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) has shown good potentiality for the decontamination and stabilization of fresh fruit and vegetable products; however, information about its effect on nutritional quality is still scarce. The aim of this research was to evaluate the impact of a form of indirect treatment known as Dielectric Barrier Discharge (DBD) on apple slices-more specifically, the polyphenolic profile and antioxidant activity of fresh-cut Pink Lady apples. Atmospheric plasma was generated using air as feed gas, and directed to apple slices for up to 30 min. The effect of plasma treatment on physico-chemical parameters was mainly observed as a slight acidification of the tissue and reduction of browning after an extended period of exposure. The samples' phenolic profile was significantly affected after 10 min of treatment, both in quantitative (an approximately 20% increase) and qualitative terms, while with increasing exposure time a progressive decrease of all polyphenol classes was observed. The antioxidant activity, evaluated by different in-vitro methods, followed a similar trend, increasing after 10 min of processing and then decreasing. Results highlighted how plasma exposure promotes a metabolic response of the fresh tissue, and the importance of carefully controlling the exposure time in order to minimize the loss of nutritional properties.
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