What is all of the fuss about? What does it mean for a food to be “organic” and why is everyone talking about it? Well, for a food to be designated as organic a number of standards have to be met in each stage of growth and development of the produce or livestock. Organic foods are made without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But unfortunately it’s not as simple as that! There are different “tiers” of organic food products and depending on the wording on the packaging, your organic food item may only be partially organic. Here are the different designations you may see on a food product:
1. "100% Organic" – This one is pretty straight forward. If your food item is labeled as being 100% organic, it means that 100% of the ingredients meet the farming and production requirements to be designated as organic.
2. "Organic" – This is where it starts to get interesting. If your food item is labeled as being “organic”, it means that at least 95% of the ingredients in the food are organic.
3. “Made with Organic Ingredients” – This is the lowest rated “tier” on the list. If you see this label on your food item, it means that at least 70% of the ingredients in the food item are organic. The other 30% of the ingredients still have some pretty strict guidelines that have to be met, such as being GMO-free.
Organic foods are becoming more demanded by the public for a number of different reasons. One of these reasons is the growing concern about the health implications of GMOs (look for another blog post on GMOs coming soon!). Without going into much detail here, there is mounting concern that GMOs are associated with a number of different adverse health conditions. Because GMO labeling is not legally required, the only way to know that a product is GMO free is to look for the “100% organic” or “non-GMO” label on your food item. Other reasons for choosing organic include the effects that pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics in livestock have on our bodies. Increased exposure to these chemicals can contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria, depressed immune systems, and therefore increased vulnerability to chronic illness, just to name a few things. Choosing an organic, GMO free diet could have significant health benefits and because of the increased demand for these products, you will often find that the price of organic food items is comparable to the price of their non-organic counterparts.
Finally, organic farming also has significant benefits to the environment – many of the harmful pesticides are that are commonly used in farming are avoided in organic farming leading to better soil quality and less harm to the environment. So what do you have to lose? Give it a try and see what effect an organic diet can have on your health!
Bonus: The term “natural”, according to the USDA, means that the food item does not contain any artificial ingredients but does NOT mean that the food is free of antibiotics, growth hormones, GMOs and other chemicals!
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1. United States Department of Agriculture: Organic Agriculture. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=organic-agriculture.html
2. Organic.org. Organic made easy. Life made better. http://www.organic.org/home/faq
3. Mayo Clinic: Nutrition and Healthy Eating. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880
3. Natural Health and Wellness Chiropractic, LLC. Dr. Alesha Fleming. www.nhwchiro.com. 2016.