Let me start by saying that I FULLY support the organic food movement! I think it is a wonderful thing for our health. The point of this article is not to make you start buying conventional food but to make you more aware that organic food is not ALWAYS healthy.
Over the last decade the organic food movement has gained a lot of steam. You can find most of your favorite conventional products in organic form.But before gobbling them up in the name of health there are a few things you need to know…
1. Organic Processed Food IS NOT 100% Organic
Surprised??? Well, according to the FDA, to label a processed food organic the ingredients only need to be 95% Organic. So what’s the other 5%? Well it’s really hard to say…which is a good reason to be leery of processed organic foods.
So what processed “snack” foods can I eat??? You can find some great options here. Organic fruit and nuts also make great on the go snacks!
2. Organic or not….Processed Foods are Typically NOT Healthy.
Here’s a great example, let’s look at the ingredient list of a very popular organic granola bar brand:
Granola (Organic) (Rolled Oats [Organic], Brown Rice Syrup [Organic], Sugar [Organic], Sunflower Oil [Organic], Sea Salt, Baking Soda, Vanilla [Organic]), Tapioca Syrup (Organic), Vanilla Chips (Organic) (Sugar [Organic], Cocoa Butter [Organic], Nonfat Milk [Organic], Soy Lecithin [Organic], Vanilla Flavor [Organic]), Crisp Rice (Organic) (Rice Flour [Organic], Sugar [Organic], Sea Salt, Malt Extract [Organic], Annatto Color), Rice Maltodextrin (Organic), Soy Lecithin (Organic), Sunflower Oil (Organic), Vanilla Flavor (Organic), Sea Salt.
So yes these snack bars are organic, but did you also notice that the SECOND and THIRD ingredients are sweeteners? In fact, almost 1/3 of the bar is a form of sugar!. While the fourth is a polyunsaturated fat otherwise known as a PUFA. Sugar and PUFA’s are both unhealthy foods that are over-consumed in our country. You can find out more about the ill effects of sugar and polyunsaturated fats here and here.
3. They Might Have Harmful Additives You Don’t Know About
Recently carrageenan was allowed as an additive in organic products. It is used as a thickener and stabilizer and is typically found in organic cow milk, soy milk, rice milk and other dairy products like cheese and cream. What’s so bad about carrageenan?” Dr. Joanne Tobacman, a physician-scientist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and the nation’s foremost independent expert on carrageenan says that:
- Exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation which is harmful;
- The amount of carrageenan consumed in the human diet is sufficient to cause inflammation;
- Both undegraded and degraded carrageenan cause inflammation.”(cornocopia,20130)
4. Organic Animal Products DOES NOT Guarantee a Healthy, Happy Animal
You might be surprised to know that I love and care about animals. The thought of animals mistreated to bring food to my table is sad and disturbing. Often, when we think of organic meat or dairy we envision these animals living a happy life on a farm. The criteria for an organic animal product is not as humane as you might imagine.
Here is the criteria:
- Must be fed 100% organic diet
- Free of antibiotics, steroids, preservatives and GMO’s
- The animals have year round access to the outdoors.
Do these look pretty good to you? Here’s the problem. While it’s great these animals get organic feed it’s not always the natural feed for the particular animal. For example, organically raised cows are usually fed grains instead of grass and chickens eat large amount of soy instead of bugs.
And secondly ,when they are given “access” to the outdoors this simply means they need to be given a small area to be outside. Large organic meat and dairy manufactures have small outdoor areas for their animals, but the animals typically remain inside in close quarters.
What do I do now?
Locally grown organic and/or raised animal products are your healthiest option. And guess what??? It’s typically more affordable! When it comes down to it buying REAL food from your local(organic) farmer is better for you and for the environment!
I have a series all about buying organic food locally that can be a great help!
- How to shop for produce locally
- How to buy meat, eggs and dairy
- How to buy fats and honey
- How to shop for REAL food at your grocery store