While vegetarians and vegans might cringe at the idea, scientists now know that vegetables and fruits don’t die the moment they are harvested. According to a new study in “Current Biology,” they respond to their environment for days.

By probing this discovery, scientists from Rice University and the University of California at Davis aren’t trying to make people uncomfortable. Indeed, they believe the knowledge can yield health benefits.

In an earlier study, scientists found that plants use their internal circadian clocks to defend themselves from hungry insects. The plant’s production of insect-fighting chemicals increases a few hours before sunrise, the time that hungry insects begin to feed.

One of those chemicals, an antioxidant called glucoraphanin, is a known anti-cancer compound.

It’s too soon to alter your refrigerator light to shine all the time. Science doesn’t know if all-dark or all-light conditions shorten the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

But they know light can be used to coax them to make more cancer-fighting antioxidants at certain times of day.

This is one more reason to eat local.

The sooner your vegetables get from the farm to your table, the more likely they will be emitting glucoraphanin — and fighting off cancer.