How Well Do You Know Your Produce?

Posted: Jun 26 in Nutrition by

How Well Do You Know Your ProduceEating a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables is an important part of your Denver weight loss program, but before you reach for another apple, take a moment to make sure you know what you are eating.

You know that frustrating sticker that you peel off your fruit before taking a big bite? The next time that pestering label gets stuck on your finger, take a moment and have a look at what it is saying. There is not much offered in terms of clear written language, but the series of numbers printed on those PLU labels actually says a lot.

Labels are placed on produce to aid the grocery store as they are selling the product, which is why it is up to the consumer to break the code. Knowing what those stickers are telling you takes all of the guess work out of determining how the food was grown.

There are three main types of farming techniques that are important to understand:

  • Organic: If a fruit is certified organic by the USDA then it was grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, synthetic substances and other unhealthy farming techniques, such as sewage sludge or other forms of contamination.
  • Conventionally Raised: This label is given to fruit that is not certified to be organic, and could mean a number of things. Certain farms do follow all or most of the organic regulations but have not gotten certified by the USDA to use the organic label. In other cases, conventionally grown produce is exposed to fertilizers and pesticides, and are often grown in depleted soils. Basically, with conventionally raised produce it is impossible to know what you are buying unless you can talk directly with the farmers.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms:  GMO produce is artificially enhanced through gene manipulation to produce the best crop possible, but this scientific twist to farming leaves a variety of health questions that are still unanswered. Genetically modified produce is often exposed to pesticides, as well.

Read the Labels!

Price labels are put on all sorts of produce, including fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts. Because so many other types of produce are pre-packaged in plastic at the grocery store, the stickers are most often seen on fruits.  Understanding the labels on these fruits doesn’t take too much memorization; the system is actually pretty simple:

  • Four Digits: If the label only has four numbers at the bottom, then it was conventionally grown.
  • Five Digits, starting with a 9: The number 9 in front of the remaining four digits means that the item was grown to meet all USDA organic regulations.
  • Five Digits, starting with an 8: If you see the number 8 before the last four digits, then the fruit was genetically modified.

Many grocery stores place their organic fruits separately from the conventionally grown and GMO items, but it is always a good idea to double check. It is easy to get fruit mixed up, especially in a produce section of a large grocery store. Reading the labels on every item that you pick up can help you to ensure that you know exactly what you are eating.

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