What are the main differences between “organic” and “natural” foods? In an effort to eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, those two labels are more widespread than ever. That’s the good news. But here’s the bad news: because “organic” and “natural” are so commonplace, they’re often confused or, more likely, thought of as the same thing.
But they’re not the same – not exactly, anyway.
To examine the issue in depth, you have to consider how the two terms apply to different food types. A different set of properties is used to determine what makes a certain grain and meat “natural.” Once you know what information is used to determine natural and organic foods, it’s much easier to instantly recognize and differentiate between the two. Plus, the ability to do this will save you time (and perhaps money) at the market!
Using Categories to Cut Through the Confusion
To grasp the natural vs. organic debate, let’s look at three different types of food: meat, dairy products and fruits and vegetables. Use this “divide and conquer” strategy to figure out your particular purchase, and everything else falls into place.
For meat, there is a significant difference between natural and organic. Chicken labeled “natural” can be somewhat misleading; in fact, chicken with injected sodium compounds is considered natural due to not containing artificial colors or flavors. But organic chicken, unlike most other food labels, is the real deal. Organic chicken must meet stringent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards, including no antibiotics or hormones, no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and no byproducts. When you’re buying organic chicken, you’re buying a breed apart – and that’s great news!
Dairy products, meanwhile, show less clear-cut contrast with natural and organic identification. The main benefit with organic dairy products is the absence of pesticide residue. A recent analysis of regular grade A butter found almost 20 types of pesticides. Organic butter has no traces of pesticides, period. Grazing requirements also come into play. As early as 2010, dairy farmers looking to achieve the organic label for milk established strict requirements, which said that organic milk must come from cows who graze the entire grazing season, not just for a few weeks or months out of the year. It sounds trivial from a shopper’s point of view, but not for dairy farmers looking to earn the organic designation.
Fruits and vegetables are fraught with much confusion between the two labels. Generally, organic holds a distinct advantage in terms of pure nutritional value. To pick just one fruit at random, organic blueberries show superior antioxidant properties when compared against non-organic blueberries. Natural, in this case, is very confusing, mainly because you can conceivably purchase “natural” lettuce or kale that are actually laced with pesticides. Unlike meat and dairy products, here’s something interesting to keep in mind: plants (including every fruit and vegetable) have their own built-in defense mechanisms in the form of natural pesticides, which means that the presence of pesticides isn’t the huge deal it’s cracked up to be; some health aficionados think organic fruits and vegetables aren’t worth the extra money. A thorough washing will diminish the presence of pesticides, and heartier fruits and vegetables (read below) can repel man-made pesticides without much effort at all.
How Skin Can Save You Money
Here’s a bonus tip when you’re weighing the organic and natural debate with fruits and vegetables. If it has a hard, non-edible skin, go with natural. Any of the usual benefits with organic (mostly from no pesticides and other substances) are offset with a hard, protective outer shell. In other words, a tough skin repels all the bad stuff. Some examples include avocados, pineapple, kiwi, papayas, coconut, plantains, squash and other varieties. Avocados and pineapple, in particular, are two anchors of the so-called “Clean Fifteen™,” a popular rank of naturally pesticide-resistant foods. For these types of fruits and vegetables, it doesn’t really matter that they’re sprayed with pesticides and the like; once you remove the skin, the interior is fine for consumption.
Making informed decisions when purchasing food will help you achieve your overall health and fitness goals. As the old (and quite true) saying goes, “you can’t out-train a bad diet.” If you’re looking to optimize your health, dietary choices are the single biggest factor that determines success. While exercise, sleep and supplements can help, your food intake is far and away the most important element of your health and fitness regimen. Organic food, while it costs a bit more, does have advantages over other options.
We hope this food buying guide gives you the information needed to make the right choices at the grocery store. For a smart option in your daily healthcare plan, choose Urgent Care Extra. With one of the largest, most trusted networks of urgent walk-in healthcare clinics in the entire U.S. southwest, UCE can help you with pressing medical care needs and also long-term health and fitness, too.
You’re welcome to visit any one of our medical care clinics in Nevada and Arizona. No appointment is necessary – just walk right in! And even if you don’t have health insurance, our affordable care will fit your budget. With more than 40 healthcare facilities in bi-state region, you’ll enjoy convenient care everywhere in the area. If you have any questions about Urgent Care Extra, please call one of our healthcare consultants today at (480) 988-9108. Thanks for stopping by the UCE blog!