I had my annual checkup the other day. What was supposed to be a 45 minute appointment turned into a 90 minute affair. At first, I was super annoyed and made it known several times that I had been waiting a long time. It wasn’t until my name was called and I was being led to my room that I saw why the office was so behind. It was chaos! The lab room (where blood is drawn) had a million people milling around (slight exaggeration). I asked the nurse why they were so behind, and she told me that the entire staff was being trained on some new technology.

At the end of my checkup (which went fine by the way), the doctor asked if I was interested in getting my antioxidant level read. I guess I had a questioning look on my face, so she went on to explain that the office is now offering a new in office test to give patients a reading on their antioxidant levels (the new technology the nurse referred to). She said that many people come in and ask about supplements, different “health” foods, basically nutrition related stuff, and now, instead of giving generic, broad answers, they have a test that measures a patient’s nutritional status.

I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, but here’s how the whole thing was explained to me…

The Pharmanex BioPhotonic Scanner has a blue laser that reflects off the carotenoid antioxidants (the colorful disease-fighting nutrients) in the skin of your hand. The result is a body-defense score, ranging anywhere from the low thousands to over sixty thousand. The number correlates with levels of carotenoids in the diet, blood, and tissues. Obviously, the higher the better.

The question this test answers is, “Are we really what we eat?”

I was a bit skeptical at first but finally decided to have the test done. No pain involved, 90 seconds long, and $20. Why not?

So before getting my blood drawn, I put my hand at the end of a machine that looks like this…

And 90 seconds later, a number popped up on the screen. 57,000! I looked at the technician standing next to me. She was smiling. She asked if I was a vegetarian because 57,000 is a great score. Now that I knew I did ok, I smiled too. I told her I was a vegetarian, and then asked a few questions of my own – what’s the average score, what’s the goal, and why a skin test and not a blood test?

She told me that the average American score is about 19,000 (2-3 servings of fruits and veggies a day). The goal is to be between 40,000-45,000 at the very least (5-8 servings of fruits and veggies a day). Also, a blood test may only reflect what was recently consumed. A skin test, on the other hand, reflects up to eight weeks of nutritional intake, making it a lot more accurate (something about our tissues and an eight week absorption rate – told you I’m not a doctor!).


When the doctor came back to check on me, she said that she only scored 23,000 and was currently working to bring that number up. She asked me what my secret was, so I told her that I try to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day and take a multi-vitamin every morning. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Now, if you ever decide to get this test done, know that there is one catch. If your body-defense score is on the lower end of the spectrum, the technician will try to sell you vitamin supplements. You’re not obligated to buy anything, but it’s good to go in knowing that there will be a sales pitch at the end of the test.

When I came home and told Vishnu about my checkup and the test, he brought up my dark chocolate consumption and how it probably has something to do with my high score since it’s known for being antioxidant rich. I knew my love for that stuff stemmed from a healthy place!

But seriously, we’ve been told to fill up on fruits and veggies our entire lives, so it’s kind of neat to see all those healthy decisions validated in this way. I also think this test is a great eye-opener for people, and if used in conjunction with blood work results and the doctor’s orders, could prove to be very beneficial.

The thing to remember is to act on the findings. While you don’t have to buy the recommended supplements, take a multi-vitamin every day. Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, and dark chocolate – regardless of your dietary preferences, make them the bulk of your meals (well, maybe not the dark chocolate). And move – note…I didn’t say join a gym or sign up for a race – just move your body as much as you can every single day. And really, we don’t need this test to tell us these things – it’s common sense. Try your very best to make good decisions as often as possible (with a little fun mixed in every now and then!) because…

…we really are the choices we make!

Happy Friday, friends!

By Parita

14 thoughts on “Are We Really What We Eat?”
  1. I’ve never heard of the Pharmanex BioPhotonic Scanner but it sounds super interesting…and a great indicator of how to make changes as and if necessary! I’m not surprised you scored so well though :)! It’s funny because in the “healthy living” blog world, it’s so easy to constantly feel like we need to eat certain foods to be healthy and avoid other foods when in reality, we are just making the notion of a healthy lifestyle more difficult than necessary. Like you said, eating a lot of fruits and vegetables with a few treats and lots of activity are the key to good health- not eating 100s of grams of protein, “killing it” at the gym daily, only eating “clean” carbs, and satisfying sweet tooth with healthified desserts (at least not all the time).

  2. Ive never heard of this test before, but it’s something that I’d definitely want to have done if I ever came across it. Congrats on your score! It’s always nice to see that our positive lifestyle choices really are paying off. And it’s definitely nice to see all that dark chocolate working it’s magic 😉

  3. I think we are what we eat 🙂 My doctor knew I was a vegetarian just based on my low cholesterol number. In fact, he said “You’re a vegetarian, aren’t you?” and I said “Yeah..” and he said, “I can tell. Your levels are great. Very healthy!” So this is awesome that you had it done, too! I think this kind of test is totally worth it. It lets you see even deeper what kind of nutrition you are getting and how your body is reflecting that! 🙂

  4. Wow–I would like to get my levels tested,
    I do think we are what we eat, My sister law, does not ‘like’ soda nor does she like candies.
    She eats loads of fruits and she eats normal food. She is very slim.
    Iam not sure, if that would make her ‘healthy’ as well, but yes we are what we eat!

    Funny, I posted a small poster on my blog today about the exact same thing!

  5. That’s machine sounds so cool, I never heard of that before. I definitely want to try it, although I’m sure my number won’t be as high as yours! I’m trying to find more ways to incorporate fruit and vegetables in my diet. It’s kind of hard because produce goes bad so fast and I can’t go to the grocery store as often as I’d like. Maybe I will sign up for a CSA

    1. Thanks, Tara! I try to get veggies into every single meal (when reasonably possible). Zuchinni in muffins, roasted veggies for dinner, a small side salad at lunch and dinner, spinach in our morning protein shakes. I hope that helps a little!

  6. I need to go for my annual checkup and will inquire about this test. that is awesome P. you are super healthy. I don’t think I eat close to the number of fruits and veggies you eat, but i do try. I”m more of a veggie person, so it’s easier eating salads and all. oooh.. i wonder what my score is. that’s so cool you can go home and discuss with with V since he knows all this. thanks for validating the dark chocolate bit.. doesn’t hurt. great article!!!

  7. How interesting…I’ve never heard of this test before! I think I’d score pretty well considering I eat mostly vegetarian. Thanks for sharing and great job on your score. 🙂

    Have a good weekend.

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