“Organic” vs. “Natural”: Understanding the Difference
Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 at 9:27 am
As health foods become more and more popular, companies are starting to add buzzwords to their packaging to generate sales. Unfortunately, the terms “organic” and “natural” are often used interchangeably when they actually stand for different things. Understanding the difference can help you make the right decision for you and your family.
- Organic – Organic foods are regulated by the USDA. Foods that bear the label “organic,” must be grown and produced in a way that follows strict guidelines set forth by the USDA. Organic foods are grown without the use of harmful pesticides, bioengineered genes, and fertilizers free from dangerous chemicals. Organic products are also free from artificial ingredients, flavors, preservatives, and fillers. Organic dairy or meat comes from animals that eat organic feed and grasses, have access to open air and plenty of space, and are always free from hormones or antibiotics. “100% Organic” products contain nothing but organic ingredients while “organic” products include 95% organic ingredients. The term “made with organic ingredients” refers to a product that includes between 75 and 95% organic ingredients.
- Natural – The term “natural” is currently unregulated by the USDA in all foods except for meat and poultry. Many companies use the term to describe a product that is free from heavily processed or artificial ingredients. “Natural” meat or poultry must be free from artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives, etc. Unlike organic meats, the term “natural” does not refer to the way the animal was raised. Natural meats can still contain growth hormones and antibiotics.
In short, “organic” foods are closely regulated in the US while “natural” foods are not. While some companies are committed to offering natural foods, others may use the word to generate more sales. Research any new natural brand you’re interested in before buying. If you learn they aren’t what they claim to be, try finding an organic equivalent.
It’s also important to remember that the terms “organic” and “natural” don’t always mean healthy. An all-natural or organic potato chip is still a potato fried in oil. It’s just an organic potato fried in organic oils. The same goes for ice cream or candy. Like any other food, check the nutritional information for complete details.