Measure the vitamins and minerals before you buy them - a mobile scanner to detect nutrient density in produce

Thursday, March 07, 2013 by: Antonia
Tags: nutritional scanner, vitamins, fresh produce

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(NaturalNews) Forget the smell, visual and squeeze tests, perhaps there's a better way to determine the "health" of a piece of produce before adding it to the basket at the grocery store or produce stand.

It's true that not all carrots are created equally. Soil conditions, including quality and type, amount of natural sun light, water conditions, temperature, environmental pollution or lack thereof, greenhouse versus outdoor growing, organic growing techniques, and more, all play a role in the nutrient density of a given piece of food.

Leveraging near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy technology to detect vibrations in molecules, a hand-held device may be able to generate results in seconds that indicate the nutritional value of a piece of food, at which point the consumer can decide if it's worth purchasing or not.

With this device, the health-conscious shopper "could compare carrots to carrots," said executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association, Dan Kittredge. The near-infrared spectroscopy technology has existed for decades and has already been applied to pharmaceutical manufacturing, medicine, agriculture and astronomy. Farmers are already using the technology to determine the protein levels in certain grains.

Using it as a supermarket scanner, at present, would come with one major limitation that is still being addressed. While it can accurately measure macronutrients like fat, protein and carbohydrates, it is not as effective at measuring micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) because it is unable to give readings for compounds at a concentration of less than 0.1 percent, a range in which most micronutrients will fall in given the vast amount of water in produce.

"Whether it will take three years or 30," Kittredge says, "we don't know," but, "this will happen."

An algorithm is being worked out in order to create a workable scanner, based solely on the fact that NIR can measure macronutrients and that: "Plants develop certain types of compounds in a predictable order and in specific ratios to various minerals, proteins and lipids."

In cooperation with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, Kittredge and a team are running thousands of assays on key foods to determine the algorithm needed to bring this device to supermarkets. Perhaps this is something that we will even see as a mobile app at some point in the future.

In the meantime, source the best seed and learn to grow food at home, even indoors, if that's the only option.

Sources for this article include:

About the author:
A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well.

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