I am often asked as a dietitian, do you feel organic foods are more beneficial? Is it worth spending the extra money on foods that contain non-GMOs, no artificial sweeteners, and are grown organically? What does organic on a food label even signify?
Within this article, I will outline the facts on what the term “organic” really means when referred to on food labels, and allow you as the consumer to make the call. Will organic foods benefit your individual needs?
Get the facts before you shop.
“The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.”
“Farmers who grow organic produce don’t use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds. Examples of organic farming practices include using natural fertilizers to feed soil and plants, and using crop rotation or mulch to manage weeds.”
So what should you look for on the product’s label to determine whether or not the food is organic or inorganic? Can labeling companies lie or deceive?
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed.”
Any product labeled as organic must be USDA certified. However, using the following seal is not required, but is typically included.
Products certified 95 percent or more organic may display this USDA seal.
However, a product does not have to be completely made of organic ingredients to be labeled organic. Foods that are composed of multiple ingredients can still be labeled organic even if all of the ingredients are not organically grown. “Products must be at least 95 percent organic to use this term. Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may say “made with organic ingredients” on the label, but may not use the seal. Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can’t use the seal or the word “organic” on their product labels. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list, however.”
Is organic food more nutritious? Research is still being conducted on this topic. Although higher antioxidant levels, lower levels of the metal cadmium, and decreased pesticides were found in organic foods, not enough studies were conducted of the effect this has on human health. Studies have consistently shown that organic and inorganic foods are no different in nutrient content.
So why do consumers choose organic? Some prefer the taste. Others like that there are fewer pesticide residues than conventional produce. However, it is important to note that residues do not exceed governmental safety standards, both on inorganic and organic. If you are looking to decrease the amount of food additives you consume, such as artificial sweeteners, flavorings, and monosodium glutamate, organic is the way to go, for the term bans or severely restricts food additives.
So what can you do to make sure you are an informed consumer? Be sure to read the food label. Just because a product is “organic” does not mean it is healthier, it will most likely be higher in sugar, sodium, and fat to compensate for the lack of preservatives.
Not sure where to start on the food label to determine whether or not the food is beneficial to your journey to health? Shoot us an email or call one of our dietitians at Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition at 609-738-3143! Let us be your reliable source to all your nutrition needs!
Michele Wroblewski, RDN
Caruso Physical Therapy and Nutrition, LLC
1278 Yardville Allentown Rd. Suite 3
Allentown, NJ 08501