Why all the talk about natural & organic products?
The buzz about natural and organic products has been growing steadily for years. Not just for the vegan or vegetarian crowd, these products are for everyone with an interest in limiting artificial ingredients and chemicals both in their diet and in the environment.
What does "natural" mean?
Natural is defined as being produced or existing in nature. Natural food may have been grown with the use of pesticides or other conventional methods, but is processed without preservatives or artificial additives. For example:
- Natural potato chips made with potatoes that have been grown conventionally, but only vegetable oil and salt are used in processing.
- All natural ice cream using milk and cream from a conventional dairy, with only sugar, natural flavors and carrageenan added.
The term "natural" is currently restricted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only as it applies to added color, synthetic substances, and artificial flavors. The term "natural" is not certified, and therefore can mean different things when used by different companies.
What does "organic" mean?
Only foods that meet the criteria determined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can be officially designated as organic. The USDA has set the following standards for organic foods:
- Synthetic pesticides, fungicides or herbicides
- Antibiotics or growth hormones
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or cloning
- Sewage sludge or artificial fertilizers
- Co-mingling of items with non-organics in transport, storage or processing of a product
- Land free of chemicals for at least 3 years
- Records, plans and receipts are maintained
- Livestock has been fed organic feed
- Animals have access to the outdoors
- Non-toxic pest management
- Crop rotation, composting, and recycling
I'm new to buying organic products. Where do I start?
Start with the foods you eat most often or in the greatest quantities. You might choose to switch to organic milk, organic grain products (such as pasta, cereal and crackers) or organic fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to fruit and vegetable options, start with those that have edible skins, such as apples, potatoes, peaches and peppers. Keep in mind that organic produce still needs to be washed thoroughly before it is cut or eaten.
Why do people choose natural and/or organic products?
- General wholesome lifestyle
- Concern about chemicals used in food manufacturing and packaging
- Concern for the environment
- Support for sustainable agriculture
- Specific health concerns (pregnancy, infants and children, food allergies and sensitivities)
- Concern about food safety
- Better taste
What are the benefits of choosing natural and/or organic products?
- Reduced levels of pesticides in our food supply and in our bodies
- Healthier environments for both humans and wildlife
- Conservation of fuel
- Better soil
Are organic products healthier for me?
It's important to remember that the term "organic" can apply to everything from cookies to apples, and that the rules from a healthy diet still apply. Some organic products are high in fat, sugar or sodium, so choose the foods that promote a balanced diet.
Other than lower levels of pesticide residues from production and chemicals in processing, researchers have not found strong evidence for differences in nutrients between conventional and organic foods. However, there may be benefits beyond just the vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels in a product. Methods of farming or raising animals might make a difference in the quality of produce, meat, milk or eggs.