Thursday, January 14, 2010

Healthy Change #3: Understand the "Natural" Label

True or False?
1.  "Organic" foods are better for me?
2.  Foods labeled "Organic" are usually more expensive?
3.  "Natural" products are better for me than conventional products?
4.  "Natural" products are just as good as "Organic" products?

Answers: 1. T, 2. T, 3. T, 4. F

I would expect that everyone got the first two answers correct.  We've all heard about the benefits of eating organic foods. It's a huge and growing trend and even Wal-mart now has a good selection. Organic foods are usually more expensive, but the big box stores are helping drive the prices down.  I imagine that you got question three correct, but what about the 4th question?  Did you answer true or false?

In order for a product to be certified "Organic", it has to be produced under a strict set of guidelines and is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA only defines "Natural" for meat and poultry indicating that it has been "minimally processed", i.e., not injected to make it juicier/plumper and color has not been added.  There is no regulation for the rest of the food industry leaving it up to the interpretation of the food producer.

"Natural" products aren't all that bad.  They usually do not contain added hormones, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.  So, yes, they are better for you than conventional products.  However, if you want a food that is not produced with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or other drugs or genetically modified feed crops or from cows that are confined to factory farm feedlots, then you better stick to "organic."

So, the answer to number four is false. "Natural" is usually cheaper, but it's not better than "organic."  My recommendation though is to find a good balance.  I personally purchase quite a few "natural" products especially when an organic version is not available.  Bottom line is take the time to read the back of the label and understand what you are eating. 

Don't forget to enter the give-away!!

For more reading:
'Natural' On The Label Can Be Misleading
Looking Behind the 'Natural' Label  
Manufacturers and consumers lose faith in natural label claims


Julie Redfern said...

Thanks for all your great information! I am going right now to throw out all our popcorn! Could I open the bags and still use the kernels or are the kernels now "contaminated"?

Mom with a Mission said...

I'm glad it was helpful. Trying to pull all the information together, make it concise and interesting to read is quite the challenge. It's definitely a learning process.

Using the kernels would be a good compromise. That way you're not being totally wasteful. There's a chance of contamination, but I think it's the high heat from the microwave that makes the bag leach the chemicals.