While more and more people are taking an interest in choosing healthier options, food labeling has become a source of confusion. In order to keep up with a fairly recent consumer demand of Real Food, many companies are marketing their products as “all-natural”, when it simply isn’t the case. There is a big difference between food that is certified organic and food product that is labeled natural.
So What do They Mean?
Organic: Foods that have been Certified Organic meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations and government standards which oversee the way in which the food has been grown, harvested and processed. These strict guidelines ensure that the foods are grown without the use of toxic synthetic pesticides and herbicides, genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs), antibiotics or artificial growth hormones. Read more here.
Natural: There are no rules or regulations to label a food product as Natural. The product could contain processed ingredients, additives and preservatives, or it could contain none of these.
So why choose Organic?
With organic farming, the farmer is responsible for nurturing the soils in order to produce crops of high nutritional density. When you eat Organic Food, you are eating food that does not contain the harmful additives that are used in conventional food production. Organic foods also contains higher levels of antioxidants, which are commonly known to help protect your cells against free-radicals, which in turn help you stay healthy and fight off disease. The difference eating organically can make on one’s life is drastic. Research is showing that children put on organic diets have dramatically reduced pesticide levels in their bodies. Certain pesticides have been identified as potential carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and have been associated with learning and developmental delays in children.
When to choose Organic?
In my perfect world, all food would be organic, or at the very least more accessible. Unfortunately this is just not the case. With the current food system, conventional food factories are making huge profits, while small organic farms are struggling to stay afloat. If you are not able to eat 100% organic, there are definitely certain produce to ensure making the investment. Each year, the nonprofit advocacy organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of the twelve most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables on the market, called the Dirty Dozen.
Eating foods that have been farmed sustainably can definitely get costly if your food budget was based on purchasing food product and conventional produce. My suggestion is to do the best you can. At first, focus on purchasing the Dirty Dozen items organically, and source local when possible! Keep following the blog for tips and tricks on how to eat real food on a real budget.