What’s the difference between organic and natural? Isn’t “natural food” just as safe and healthy as organic food? Unfortunately, natural does not mean organic and comes with no guarantees. “Natural foods” are often assumed to be foods that are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics or artificial flavors. In the United States, however, neither the FDA nor the USDA has rules or regulations for products labeled “natural.” As a result, food manufacturers often place a “natural” label on foods containing heavily processed ingredients. This is one of those marketing ploys I frequently refer to!
What about organic? Organic is the most heavily regulated food system. Only organic guarantees that no toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to animals. Organic producers and processors also are subject to rigorous announced – and unannounced – certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are producing and processing organic products in a manner you and your family can trust.
But are organic foods really better for you or worth the price? Your chances of getting pesticide residues are much less with organic food, but even so, the amount of man-made pesticide residues found in conventional foods is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. The real issue is whether these small doses, over time, might add up to an increased health risk down the line. Who knows? We are the guinea pigs. Another concern is the use of manure as a fertilizer. Some say this might increase the risk of contamination of E. coli.
As far as organic foods being more nutritious than natural or conventional foods – no one can say for sure. A few studies have reported higher levels of some minerals, vitamin C and antioxidants, but the differences are so small they have no impact in overall nutrition.
As usual, I suggest you do some research. If a food says that it is natural, read the label and see what it “really” means. If you are concerned about pesticides, definitely select organic products. If you are most concerned about nutrition – read labels.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.