When I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and pulmonary arterial hypertension, I learned early on how important my diet was going to be for the future of my health. I have to restrict fluids, restrict sodium, at a minimum, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to see if I could help improve and maybe even prevent worsening of my health by changing how and what I ate.
The healthier diet journey sent me into a tailspin when I hit the ‘organic’ market. Wow, what a racket this is for some producers! Then again, for some producers, they provide a quality, safe, tasty product. How can you tell the difference? How can you spot was is real and what isn’t real where foods are concerned?
I started my quest online, researching things like organic foods and what that meant. From there, I read enough information to have tons of questions to ask. So let’s look at a few things I learned.
Organic doesn’t always mean organic
Sadly, it’s true that some producers put organic labels on their food when they are not truly organic, in tricky ways. For example, they may use one organic product and advertise it as ‘made with organic XXX’, but the rest of the product isn’t organic at all. Then the word ‘organic’ is huge on the package, while the rest is smaller, making a consumer miss the small print. This is just one of the ways producers sometimes try to trick consumers into thinking a product is better for them when it might not be.
However, the good news is, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a great program for certifying and monitoring organic producers and their wares. Their website says , “USDA’s National Organic Program regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced.” So if you’re unsure, check out their website and see which growers and producers have organic regulation of their products.
Organic quality can vary widely
Organic only means that nothing processed or synthetic was used in the making of the product or the growing of the product. That doesn’t mean the cleanliness or growing conditions are better or that the quality, flavor or taste of the product is any better. As such, you will likely pay more for any organic product, but the likelihood of it tasting like you want it to can be quite different from one product to the next.
It is true, from my own personal experience, that organic products usually taste better than pesticide-ridden produce or produce that was grown to look better but not necessarily taste better. However, I’ve had some organic products I paid top-dollar for that tasted quite awful. Consistency is an issue with organic produce in particular, especially from one season to the next.
Look for the Certified Organic seal
The green and white USDA certified organic seal can’t be used unless the product and producer are certified organic through the USDA. Looking specifically for this seal and refusing to purchase any products that say organic without this seal is one way to ensure you’re getting a truly organic product. Sadly, some farms and producers can’t afford certification for organic, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t organic, but it also means they haven’t had to prove that to anyone either.
All-natural and organic are not the same thing:
All-natural is a tough one to gauge accuracy on, because, after all, what is all-natural? I mean, marijuana is all-natural. At one time, aspirin was all-natural too. Some chemicals occur naturally, but I wouldn’t want to eat or drink them, and some medications aren’t all-natural but they will save your life. So looking for something that is all-natural is really looking for a misnomer. It’s not a fitting name, and it doesn’t have anything to do with organic.
What, exactly, is organic?
Lastly, let’s look at what organic really means. According to the USDA website, for a product to be certified organic, it must:
“Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”
Always be an informed consumer and read labels before purchasing. Look for hidden non-organic items, hidden chemicals and preservatives, or misleading wording that might trick you into buying products that aren’t as healthy as you would like them to be.