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Updated: Sep 16, 2023


Years ago when I first learned about what produce codes mean, I felt it was an important piece to share with anyone trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Many of my clients are busy parents with a million things on their mind, and as one woman once told me "I can barely remember what day it is, let alone how to navigate the bad stuff in the grocery store." Luckily for her, I love music, so together we came up with a fun way for her to remember to check those codes; an 80's song! Codes beginning with a 3 or 4 indicate that the item was conventionally grown in nutrient deficient soil and has been exposed to pesticides and chemicals. Sounds gross right? It gets worse. Five digit codes beginning with an 8 mean that the item has been genetically modified (GMO), a process by which the DNA structure of the food is altered to achieve a desired result. You may be wondering why these things would even be an option for us as consumers. The answer is simple, MONEY. Follow me on this one;

30K apples are grown in California on one acre of land. They are sprayed with chemicals to keep them looking pretty while they make the long journey across the country to Florida. The apples sit in the grocery store for a few more weeks where they need to keep looking pretty so people will buy them. Enter you, the consumer, and you see the apple you like, wearing its sexy 'four digit dress'. It looks so perfect and shiny, so you buy it. The apple comes home with you and sits for another week or so, still looking good, and you're impressed with how long it has lasted in that decorative bowl with the other fruit. When you do eventually eat it, it tastes alright, so maybe you're inclined to keep buying it. Of course the apple needed to be sprayed with harmful chemicals, how else could they grow so many of them at once and give them such a long shelf life without doing so? Sure it's a health concern, but there's money to be made! The result you end up with is an apple that has been covered with toxins and grown in soil that's been robbed, but it looked good, right?

Organic farming does cost more, which means as consumers we pay more, but we're getting a superior product with far more nutritional value, grown in a way that's less harmful to our planet. Check your labels and make sure you're buying produce with a five digit code beginning with the number 9. Many grocery stores will advertise themselves as the healthier option and a better place to shop, leaving you to believe that you wouldn't need to be so diligent. Sadly, most of them still sell the same old four digit produce, just at a much higher price. Organic food is known to contain higher amounts of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and is bursting with flavor that is noticeable immediately. Choosing healthier options means something different for everyone. From budget constraints to food deserts, we do the best we can with what's available at the time. Try shopping at local produce markets or privately owned produce stands as they often carry organic items at much lower prices. We only get one body while we're here, it's worth the investment to keep it as healthy as possible.

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Produce Codes and organic produce

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