The Difference Between Natural and Organic Foods
At first glance, and maybe even with a closer look, it might be hard to notice a difference between foods labeled “natural” or “organic”. . . if there even is any. After all, the term can be used interchangeably, right? Actually, there are a few significant differences between the two terms, and knowing the key differentiators will make you a much smarter (and healthier) shopper.
Defining the Difference
The main difference between the two is as follows: Organic foods are produced, manufactured, and handled using organic methods defined by certifying bodies such as the United States Department of Agriculture. Natural food is simply food that is not altered chemically or artificially synthesized.
The key word here is “defined;” organic foods are placed under intense scrutiny and have to comply with certain regulations. There are absolutely no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or preservatives in organic food.
On the other hand, natural food is not at all regulated (except for when it comes to meat, which we will talk about in just a moment); and all it means is that the food has undergone minimal processing. A food could be grown without the use of additives, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of pesticides being present in the soil from which it was grown. Not only that, but I’ve seen foods advertised as “natural” yet still contain ingredients like MSG.
Organic vs. Natural Meat
When it comes to meat, the USDA inspects and regulates both natural and organic types. If meat is “natural” it means that there are no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives, and it’s not heavily processed. Organic food is largely the same, but the main difference here is that organic meat guarantees that every aspect is healthy and natural, where natural meat does not. Just because natural meat itself is untreated does not mean the cow it came from was not. In fact, cattle can still be fed hormones and antibiotics, and might still be raised in cramped living conditions, yet still fall under the “natural” guise. In contrast, organic cattle are given spacious enclosures, and no hormones or chemicals are added to their diet.
Being able to distinguish between the terms “natural” and “organic” will really make a difference when you are trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. It’s important to realize that many foods can be labeled as being natural, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy. Organic foods, though, are certified by the USDA and are easy to spot because they will proudly display the “USDA Organic” stamp of approval.