You Are What You Eat; but WHAT Are You Eating?

Hilary Cunningham
Feb 26, 2020 · 5 min read

It’s rare to find a wellness trend today without some sort of dietary requirement. From paleo to vegan, those promoting self-improvement often start with what will become you: your food.

And if it’s accepted that what you’re eating is the key to being well — isn’t it worth paying attention to what’s actually in your food? Sure, you’ve seen the literal inside of a cut apple, or squished a blueberry just to see what’s beneath the skin. But when I say “inside” I mean going deeper; I’m talking about the nutrition inside that food.

Take the adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” When scurvy ran rampant and the common diet was bereft of vitamin C, eating an apple a day may have gone a long way towards keeping you well. But today, several colluding factors mean not every apple provides the same nutritional benefit. That apple you’re eating to stave off illness might not even have the very nutrients you’re eating it for.

The worst part? You wouldn’t even know.

So what’s happening? Why wouldn’t your food have what you’d expect it to have?

The truth is that before arriving at the grocery store, most food is measured by purely cosmetic standards. Pretty potato? To the shelves. Disfigured daikon? The chopping board.

Specifically, the USDA grading standards for an apple include factors like:

  • Roundness
  • Broken Skins
  • Bruises
  • Color, depending on the variety

And this kind of grading rubric either dangerously takes for granted, or presumes the unimportance of, things like:

  • Sugar — what makes an apple sweet
  • Vitamin C — a vital nutrient for humans
  • Antioxidants — compounds with anti-carcinogenic health benefits
  • Malic Acid — what provides an apple’s tart flavor

And to quote another oft-cited adage: “You get what you measure.” Over the past several decades our food has been cultivated to minimize bruising and maximize roundness. The result is a food ecosystem in which you can no longer assume the nutritional quality of your food.

I’m calling BS on your nutrition facts panel — and I have the data to prove it.

Our company, TeakOrigin, recently ran an experiment to measure the vitamin C content in apples — we wanted to test the USDA label’s claim that a standard apple should contain 4.6mg of vitamin C.

We bought apples from orchards and three major grocers in Boston and used lab-based analytical chemistry and ultra-performance liquid chromatography to determine a vitamin C range between 0.1 mg and 7.5 mg per apple.

Apple Vitamin C data from Fall 2018

So depending on where you’re getting them, you would have to eat somewhere between half an apple and 45 apples to get the amount of vitamin C the USDA claims should be in just one. You’re probably thinking what we thought: this is bananas! er.

How we compare apples to apples

First, we created the TeakOrigin Quality Score (“TOQS”) — a score that indicates the nutrient density of produce, compared to USDA standards. In other words, if an apple scores a TOQS 93% — it has 93% of the nutrients the USDA claims an apple should have. If an apple scores 130% — it has 130% of the nutrients the USDA claims an apple should have.

TOQS tells you the nutrient density of food, compared to USDA standards

Second, we created TeakOrigin Value Rank (“TOVR”). This ranking adds the common denominator of “price” to the TOQS, so you can understand nutrition quality per dollar spent. For example, if apples from grocery store A and grocery store B have identical TOQS, the store with the lower price would be ranked higher on TOVR — because you are paying less for the same nutrients.

TOVR tells you where you can find the best nutrient deals

Our science is rigorous and legit. How legit? Ask Ellen Miseo — our Chief Scientist with a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry. She’s spent 10 years studying and applying the chemistry methods that are the foundation of our TOQS. Or talk to Yagiz Sutcu — our Head of Data with a Ph.D. in Data Science. He works tirelessly with our data to ensure our results are robust and representative before we release anything.

TeakOrigin Guide — find out what you’re really eating

Our goal is simple: to help you make better food decisions based on what’s inside your food.

We hope that by providing transparency, and letting you make decisions based on what your food contains, we have the potential to revolutionize how food is cultivated, valued, bought, and sold throughout the food supply chain.

So stop judging food by its cover. Visit to find out what’s inside.


Discover What’s Inside Your Food

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