At Feel Great Now we’ve often mentioned that you need to read labels on everything you buy, whether food or supplement.
Knowing exactly what’s in your food (or supplements) is important.
It’s easy to focus on what seems “healthy” or “wholesome” about a processed food product, such as:
- the product’s name (e.g. “Taste of Nature”; “Mom’s Home Recipe”, “XYZ Farm”, etc.)
- the product’s packaging (e.g. bright colors or an earthy-looking brown paper package)
- claims made on the front of the package (e.g. “Helps lower cholesterol” or “A good source of fiber”)
- where the product is shelved and sold (e.g. in the “health food” aisle or in a health food store)
But are those processed products really “healthy” and “wholesome”? Sadly, no.
Today we’ll look at why many “healthy” foods don’t count as whole foods.
In fact, plenty of “healthy” foods aren’t much better than their conventional counterparts.
Organic food is big business.
U.S. sales of organic food and beverages grew from $1 billion in 1990 to $35.9 billion in 2014. And most well-known “small” organic brands are actually owned by large corporations.
- ConAgra, one of the largest processed food producers in North America, produced brands such as Orville Redenbacher Organic, Hunt’s Organic, and PAM Organic.
- The fabled “hippie” brand of Ben & Jerry’s is actually owned by Unilever.
- Coca-Cola owns Odwalla, while Pepsi owns Naked Juice.
- Kashi is owned by Kellogg; Kraft owns Back to Nature, and General Mills owns Cascadian Farm.
The same is true of personal care products, by the way. There actually was a Burt and a Tom,but now Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox, and Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive.
This isn’t to say that all product lines owned by big corporations are “bad.”
However, it’s important to realize that just because a product sounds healthy, that doesn’t mean that it is.
Or that those wacky Ben and Jerry guys are sitting in their offices thinking about how to keep you healthy and lean.
Medically Advanced Yet Sicker Than Ever
Isn’t it incredible that in an unprecedented age of medically advances we are dealing with epidemics such as:
- Alzheimers and dementia (set to be the #1 cause of death)
Here’s a hint…a lot of has to do with what we are eating, drinking and using for body care products. It’s called Toxic Overload Syndrome.
Toxic Overload Syndrome symptoms can include:
- Aching muscles and joints
- Poor sleep
- Skin problems
- Digestive health issues such as IBS
- Brain fog/concentration issues
- Struggling to lose weight
- According to the NRDC there’s over 80,000 toxic chemicals and pollutants in our every day lives – most of which are UNREGULATED?
- The average woman is subjected to 515 toxic chemicals a day – just in their body care products alone?
- Toxins love to live in fat?
The sad truth is that you are never going to get away from all these toxins. However, eating REAL organic food will certainly reduce your toxic exposure and toxic body burden.
What does “organic” mean?
In the United States and Canada, “organic” covers the ways that crops, livestock, and agricultural products are raised, processed and handled.
- Organic crops are raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
- Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed, bred naturally, and get to go outdoors. They are not given antibiotics or growth hormones.
- In Canada, organic standards prohibit factory-type farming. This means that organic farmers must minimize the animals’ stress and not confine them in pens or cages that are too small.
Organic simply means that the food was grown or raised without certain chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, or hormones.
While this is all great, and it’s definitely a good thing to support small organic farmers — especially ones in your community — this criteria doesn’t mean that “organic” automatically equals “healthy.”
Remember, an “organic” label alone doesn’t guarantee that the food is safer or healthier, especially if it’s a processed food product.
- 100% Organic or Organic: Contains 95% or more organic ingredients
- Made With Organic Ingredients: Contains at least 70% organic ingredients
- If the product has less than 70% organic ingredients, then only the ingredients that are organic can be called “organic”.
An organic label was never intended to mean “healthy”.
It just means that what’s inside was grown totally, or in some small part, according to a specific set of chemical standards (see above).
Oh, and by the way, the term “natural” is meaningless so don’t be fooled by “organic” and “natural” labels. In fact, MSG (monosodium glutamate) can be legally termed as ‘natural flavor’.
You won’t be healthier, leaner, or a better athlete from impulse buys based on this labeling.
The health food hustle
Like organic food, “health food” and “natural products” are also big business.
Indeed, health food stores have come a long way since their humble beginnings as weird-smelling, cramped hippie outposts.
The “natural foods” grocers Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s earned $15.4 billion and $30.6 billion USD in sales in 2015. They made substantial profits and opened new superstores while many other grocery chains (such as Safeway) lost money and/or had to close up shop.
In some ways, this is a good thing.
Now it’s a lot easier for consumers to buy healthier, organic, minimally processed foods.
On the other hand, this also means that there are a lot of companies introducing foods to “compete” in the natural and organic food space.
And, as each company adds their unique processing twist, we end up with a bunch of distracting processed foods that seem healthy… but aren’t much better than any other processed food out there.
Be a critical consumer.
The easiest way to do that:
Buy unprocessed or minimally processed foods that don’t have much packaging to distract you from what’s important.
When is organic better?
Organic is better when the food is a whole, relatively unprocessed food, such as:
- meats and poultry
- fish and seafood
- nuts and seeds
- beans and lentils
- whole, intact grains
- minimally processed dairy (e.g. fresh plain yogurt)
- cold-pressed, virgin oils
Organic food is even more awesome when it’s local and raised sustainably on a small farm (or wild-caught). Animals should be fed their natural diet (e.g. grass for cows) and be raised in their natural surroundings.
Trust us, when you have a steak from an organic, free-roaming, lovingly pasture-raised cow, or a fresh-picked, in-season peach — you’ll taste what we’re talking about (and you’ll feel good about your choices too).
However, organic food may not be the best choice when it means processed, refined food products, or products that had to travel thousands of miles to get to you.
When Organic Isn’t That Organic After All
Sadly, 40% of all ‘organic’ foods that have been labelled and ‘USDA’ approved aren’t organic all.
The inconvenient truth is that:
- Many companies claiming that their products are organic are fraudulently making this claim
- Toxic residues from herbicides and pesticides etc sprayed on neighboring farms are tainting organic crops due to what’s called ‘drift’…drifting over from the wind and settling on organic crops
How Do You REALLY Know Your Food is Organic?
The simplest answer, however not always the easiest option…
- Grow your own produce and keep your own chickens (and other livestock)
- Shop at local, independent farm shops and butchers and markets – ask about how their produce is grown and how their animals are treated and raised (or even visit the farm — it’s a great family field trip for city slickers)
Be a smart — and skeptical — health food shopper! And when in doubt, go minimally processed. It’s usually the safest bet.