4 Things You Should Know About Natural And Organic Food | Kroger Health

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4 Things You Should Know About Natural And Organic Food

by Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Last Updated: August 3, 2021

Casting our gaze towards health promotion and disease prevention has emerged as not just a temporary movement over the last year and a half considering the COVID-19 pandemic but also as a permanent shift in long-term wellness and nutrition. Many of us have a heightened interest in improving our diets and choosing foods that prevent or treat chronic conditions, including diabetes, obesity, cancer, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. Particular attention is being given to natural and organic foods. Here we discuss some common confusion with these foods.

  1. What do “natural” and “organic” mean?
    The term “natural” doesn’t have a formal definition as it applies to food, but instead, there is a long-standing implication in the term’s usage. “Natural” is intended to mean that nothing synthetic or natural has been included in or added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. Organic, however, indicates a USDA Certified Organic product produced under approved methods that include certain cultural, biological, and mechanical practices. Organic production aims to promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Certain practices are not allowed in organic practice such as synthetic fertilizers and genetic engineering (products of this process are known as “genetically modified organisms” or GMOs).
  2. Are there certain foods I should and should not buy as natural or organic?
    Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of their top 15 fresh conventional (non-organic) produce picks (“Clean Fifteen”), which contain the lowest amounts of pesticide residues, alongside 12 conventional fresh fruits and vegetables (“Dirty Dozen”) with the highest amounts of pesticide residues. The EWG encourages consumers to choose fewer foods under the “Dirty Dozen” list (examples include strawberries, spinach, and kale) while being less critical of foods selected under the “Clean Fifteen” list (examples include avocados, sweet corn, and pineapple). However, the USDA Pesticide Data Program (PDP) found in 2018 found that more than 99 percent of products sampled had residues well below safety standards established by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The Produce for Better Health (PBH) challenges the motives of EWG, stating that arousing unnecessary fear about pesticide use is counterproductive to increasing America’s intake of fruits and vegetables, which is a well-recognized public health concern.
  3. Are natural and organic foods healthier?
    The consensus is that healthfulness of natural, organic, and conventional products are very comparable. The health benefits derived from food produced with various agricultural methods make minimal impact on nutrition. Some studies cite modestly higher amounts of phenolic compounds (beneficial plant compounds) in organic produce and marginally increased omega-3 fatty acids in dairy. Still, many other studies come up short on determining a clear difference. You may be surprised to learn that much of the attention eating organic has received in its impact on nutrition benefit is largely unfounded.
  4. What’s the bottom line?
    It is well established that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy (or fortified soy alternatives), and whole grains helps protect our health. This is more explicitly outlined in December’s release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025. The main takeaway is that it’s important to incorporate healthful foods into your eating pattern. Natural, organic, and conventional foods are produced safely, and a variety of wholesome choices from any of these agricultural methods can enhance the quality of our diets. Which healthful foods you incorporate and how they’re grown can be based on your own needs, preferences, and budget. For instance, someone might choose natural and organic foods if they feel strongly about avoiding certain characteristics of food (such as some synthetic substances) or if they support particular food production practices.

Interested in getting even more clarification about natural and organic foods for your health? Connect with one of our registered dietitians in a 1:1 telenutrition visit.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

This content was originally published here.

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