"All natural" my booty

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My friend Dina competes in figure contests for teens and, thus, follows a very strict diet. She eats a bunch of fish, veggies, protein, protein... and more protein. She tears food markets apart searching for their healthiest and most beneficial products. After about a year of observing, I decided to try out this healthy lifestyle myself. I've always been a fan of working out and staying in shape, but my "healthy diet" was non-existent. I wouldn't necessarily say I ate unhealthy all the time, but being Hispanic and Italian really takes a toll on my eating habits. Every night my parents would prepare elaborate meals for my sister and I, drowning us in rice or pasta with plenty of seasonings and sauces. Now, I did not go as far as to cut out these delicious meals, but I did try to make better choices throughout the day leading up to dinner, so that I could eat my favorite meals with less guilt.

I decided to go food shopping for myself for the first time. I grabbed the healthiest foods I could find. Labels like "organic" and "fat free" lured me in quickly. Then I came across "all natural". "All natural? As in nothing bad at all?" I wondered.  Without hesitation, I snatched around four of five "all natural" products: Peanut butter, chips, juices, and even ice cream. I thought I had finally found my "cheat". I had finally discovered a way to enjoy the foods I love so much, while maintaining a "healthy" diet.

Once I told my friend Dina about my discovery, she laughed. Now I look back and laugh along.

Let me help some clueless kids out here. All natural foods are "minimally processed". Yes, this is good! Yet, this label is not regulated by the FDA or USDA on any foods except for meat and poultry. Therefore, the term can be easily misused and abused. The term "all natural" does not imply how the food was grown or came to be, and does not even have a clear-cut definition, according to my sources cited. What's dangerous about this is that buyers could easily fall into the trap of the title and consume foods that they believe are "healthier" and universally approved. For example, all natural foods, such as granola bars contain "natural flavors", yet these ingredients can be processed through artificially. Continue reading on this site for a list of foods that fool!

While searching the web, I found an article (listed below) from September 2011 titled "Is your dinner 'All Natural'?" Although not too recent, the issue is still problematic today. Consumers have filed numerous lawsuits against the phrase "all natural" in the recent years, claiming the term is too vague. For example, this website sheds light on the fact that "natural" foods can still contain "loads of sugar, fat, or calories." Be wary of the labeling!

Now that I am educated in this, I switched to "organic", a label that provides a much more clear-cut idea of what I'm consuming. Organic food is generally raised by precise farming practices that are monitored strictly by the USDA, according to the website listed below. Although I don't have Dina around to point out misleading labels, my new roommate Sara is all about organic food. Guess who I'll be shopping with the next three years?

- JT

Article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903374004576580671156407598.html 

All about "organic": http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml



Side note: My links tab stopped working after my third attachment, which is why the websites are listed below the actual post. Sorry for the inconvenience!

1 Comment

Thanks for sharing! This is so interesting and the fact that the FDA or USDA doesn't regulate this is unheard of! You would think it would almost be false advertising and that isn't allowed. Someone should definitely write to the FDA to get these things taken care of.


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