I recently came across a method to rate the nutrient density or nutrient value of fruits and vegetables without having to do an expensive laboratory test. It involves an inexpensive refractometer which  you can find on Amazon for $21. You will also need a Brix chart which you can find online or see below. You put the juice of any fruit or vegetable on the tip of the refractometer and it will measure the sugar/nutrient density via light. The refractometer is an optical device using prisms which takes advantage of the scientific fact that light passing through a liquid bends or refracts. Thicker, or more dense, liquids refract more. The higher the Brix score the richer the sugar and mineral mixture in the plant. Solids dissolved in a liquid will cause it to exhibit a refractive index in direct relation to the amount of solids. A calibrated reading is displayed which you can compare to a chart and determine whether you are purchasing nutrient dense, rich food or nutrient sparse, poor food.

Professor Brix was a 19th Century German chemist. He was the first to measure the density of plant juices by floating a hydrometer in them. European winemakers were unable to predict which of various grape juices would make the best wine. Being able to judge quality ahead of actual bottling was of immense importance in an industry where a bottle of the best wine might sell for hundreds of times more than a bottle of everyday wine. Professor Brix became a hero when he emerged from his laboratory with a way to gauge grape quality. The measuring process was named after him.

The refractometer is used by many professionals to evaluate food quality. The handheld version can be a great boon to the conscientious consumer who wants to compare produce at a farmer’s market or at the grocery store. If the farmer or salesperson will offer a small sample to test, there is no need to purchase tomatoes that taste like cardboard or wait to get home to find out your melon is a huge disappointment. The food system has rewarded growers primarily by weight and appearances. For the first time, consumers can begin to tip the scales in favor of nutrition.

Even on the organic side of the house, there exists poor quality and high quality produce. Organic focuses mostly on not using toxic pesticides and other chemicals on the plant. The priority is not on ensuring nutritional value. This test will allow the consumer to pick the highest quality organic food raised in the best available soils which pack the biggest nutrient punch. Definitely something to get excited about!


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