Can you rely on organic fruits and vegetables to be nutrient dense? Unfortunately, organically grown produce may be deficient in nutrients. The same is true of locally grown produce from a farmer’s market.

Let’s say you are at a market and you want to buy carrots. Like many people, you think the nutrient content in all carrots is the same. So you choose the cheapest and prettiest carrots, possibly organically grown. By doing this you might not be getting the most nutrient dense carrots available.

Two of the ways to identify nutrient dense carrots are taste and Brix level. Brix is the percent of dissolved solids in the juice of a specific vegetable. The higher the Brix of the juice the higher the sugar, mineral, and protein content. Produce with a higher Brix will be sweeter and more nutrient dense.

I tested the Brix level of carrots from three different markets. The carrot with the highest Brix (9.8) was conventionally grown, not organic. It was rated better than average on the Brix chart where poor = 4, average = 6, good = 12, and excellent = 18.

You can do Brix testing yourself with a simple meter known as a refractometer.
Supplies you need:
Pampered Chef New Improved Garlic Press
Granite Mortar and Pestle, Small
Atago PAL-1 Digital Refractometer or Vee Gee BTX-1 Refractometer
coffee filter
distilled water for cleaning and calibrating your refractometer
squeeze bottle

1. Calibrate the refractometer using a squeeze bottle of distilled water.
2. Get a small sample of the fruit or vegetable you wish to test. For the carrot, take a sample from the middle.

S Carrot for Brix test

3. Crush with a garlic press or a mortar and pestle. For a carrot, a mortar and pestle works well.

Crush carrot for Brix test

4. Place the sample on a coffee filter.

Carrot sample for Brix test

Carrot sample for Brix test

5. Squeeze a couple drops of juice through the filter onto the lens of the refractometer.

Squeeze carrot juice onto refractometer

Squeeze carrot juice onto refractometer

6. Read the Brix level on the meter. Find the rating on a chart of Brix values, available at RBTI Perspective. For a carrot, the Brix ratings are poor = 4, average = 6, good = 12, and excellent = 18.

For more information:
Nourishment Home Grown by A.F. Beddoe
How to grow nutrient rich food in a home garden following the principles of Carey Reams, and how to evaluate food at a market.

The Quest for Nutrient-Dense Food: High-Brix Farming and Gardening
by Suze Fisher (Weston A Price Foundation)

Using a Refractometer to Test the Quality of Fruits and Vegetables
by Rex Harrill (online mini book)

The Ideal “Sugar” for Your Sweet Tooth by Dr. A.F. Beddoe
(online article)