The truth about natural foods

By • Published: December 16th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

So you’re browsing in the soup aisle of your favorite grocery store when you spot the words “all-natural” in big, bold letters on the side of a can of chicken soup. Sounds a lot healthier than the other cans… you know, the ones that don’t say “all-natural”? Sort of makes it seem like all the other foods are processed creations concocted in labs, not kitchens.

This assumption might be right. An all-natural label could mean all the ingredients are whole foods and there aren’t any preservatives or weird chemicals with names that have too many consonants.

But… it might be wrong, too. Just because something says it is all-natural, does not mean that it actually is natural… or that it is even good for you. How can that be? Well, there is actually no definition for what is labeled as a natural food and what is not. The U-S Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have rules about “natural” food. And although the F-D-A does ask companies not use the term “all-natural,” it doesn’t police those that do it anyway.

So what do you do if you want to eat as naturally as possible? You can go the whole food route. What does this mean? Basically, buy all the ingredients and make what you want to eat from scratch.

If you want to stay away from chemicals, you can also go organic. The U-S Department of Agriculture does certify foods that meet its organic standards. Just look for the handy U-S-D-A Organic seal. For a food to be certified 100 percent organic, all its ingredients must be produced organically. To be labeled simply as “organic,” a product only has to be 95 percent organic, though.

Confused? Just remember to avoid the shiny packaging and buzzwords. Buying food is sort of like signing a contract. Always read the fine print.