How do you make an educated food purchase that will protect you and your family from harmful yet common food contaminants? You must be privy to the subtleties. Many people today accept ‘all natural’ as a stamp of integrity for their food. FDA regulations, however, make the guidelines for authenticity rather lenient, and capitalize on the unawareness of the average buyer with strong advertising.
The average person on a base level acknowledges that there are dangerous additives like MSG and high fructose corn syrup in many products. As a result, they generally attempt to avoid these, and will instead often pick a product with an ‘all natural’ label in an effort to do so. Products that are labeled as such, however, oftentimes don’t contain many ‘natural’ ingredients.
Under federal regulations, it’s entirely acceptable to include additives that are not even deemed as ‘natural’, or use unnatural preparation methods like frying, genetic modification, or pasteurization. The product only has to be part ‘natural’. But what does natural really mean?
The definition of a ‘natural’ product has no defined parameters in law or regulation, so essentially these products can be — and are easily — as contaminated as what the consumer may have originally tried to avoid.
In a cunning way, company advertisers have adapted to the fact that consumers are aware of the issues with their food products, but have performed a proverbial hijack by marketing their products within what the consumer believes to be the alternative to chemical-laden food. These products pose as the real deal, but are often just as unhealthy as their formers.
Generally, consumers think they want ‘all natural’ products, but really are looking for certified organic foods. Certified organic products are generally of higher quality and maintain greater nutritional value than conventional foods and the ‘natural’ alternatives.
Despite even this, organic labeling requires only 70% of the product to be organic in order for it to be certified. This means that similar to how the ‘natural’ foods are manipulated, the product can be organic, yet still be subject to unnatural preparation methods. In addition, the product may contain certain quantities of non-organic substance.
Beyond All Natural | Shopping Smart
What people are really looking for are the most unprocessed, purest organic foods they can buy or grow. These are the highest in nutritional value, and are completely free of any form of manipulation. If they are self grown (to get started check out our starting guide on organic gardening), then they are subject solely to the individual’s care, and are completely free of processing or outside manipulation. Despite this, many do not grow their own foods, and there are good products to be found out there.
So what does the smart consumer look for?
- Organic products will contain a percentage of organic content as indicated on label. Look for the highest possible percentage rates.
- GMO-free foods. Among health concerns, genetically modified food is arguably the highest priority to avoid. Most foods that contain GMOs are not labeled. GMO-free products make a note that they are such, often with a verified GMO-free label.
- Pay attention to certain food processing methods, like pasteurization, irradiation, or frying.
- Check sugar and salt content. Despite being organic, it’s still not healthy to consume huge amounts of sugar or sodium.
- Most oils used in products (canola, sunflower, vegetable) unless otherwise stated, may be GMO.
- Avoid soy as it is one of the most genetically modified crops used in food products today.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and suraclose.
- Note the number of ingredients in a product in general. The less number of ingredients, the less processed it is, and usually foregoes the majority of chemical additives.
You may even be so inclined as to learn the names for many of the artificial preservatives, so you are aware of their presence in foods. Often when you can’t pronounce or recognize what it is, it likely should not be a part of your diet.