Food Is Not Your Enemy

Does “Organic” Mean It’s Healthy?
February 8, 2011, 10:36 am
Filed under: food politics | Tags: , ,

Organic foods used to comprise a miniscule percentage of food sales. But no longer. As the amount of money spent on organic food in the U.S. has risen over the years, food marketers have started to pay attention to the potential of this part of the market. Ping! Cue cartoon man with his tongue hanging out and dollar signs in his eyes.

So, no surprise, we’re now seeing more and more foods in the supermarket trumpeting on their packaging that they’re ORGANIC. Seems like a good development, right? Not so fast. The organic label, according to the USDA National Organic Program, signifies the following:

“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.”

What’s not to like? Well, there’s plenty to like about organically grown whole foods–things like fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meats, milk and cheese, nuts, whole grains, beans, and the like. These foods not only meet the criteria defined above, but they’re also healthy, nutrient-rich foods.

But the problems start with products that are essentially junk foods that happen to be processed from organic ingredients. A perfect example: the soft drink known as “Honest Kids.” These soft drinks are pushed as healthy, and I’ve seen many health-conscious parents buying these for their kids. But these drinks contain only 10 percent juice–the rest is sugar water. The grape flavor, for instance, has water and sugar as its first two ingredients. Yes, the sugar is organic. That doesn’t make it a healthy choice, however–it simply means the sugar cane was grown without pesticides. Organic sugar has the same number of calories and the same negative effect on our blood sugar and health as conventional table sugar.

And it doesn’t stop with soft drinks. There are organic chips, cereal bars, cookies, crackers, and countless other types of junky snack foods now that happen to be produced without pesticides. Are these products better than non-organic snacks? Sure. But are they good for you? Not really.

So don’t be fooled by all these new products; stick with what you know is true healthy food–the stuff that didn’t require a factory machine to make it.


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