Eating and shopping healthier should be simple, right? If only it were so. With the dizzying array of health claims found down every grocery aisle, you might think you need a PhD to sort out what’s genuinely good for you. Yet there’s at least one label that truly means what it says: USDA Certified Organic.
By definition, “organic” foods are produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, genetically engineered ingredients, or synthetic pesticides. In other words, they’re grown the old fashioned way – sunlight, water and natural fertilizer. That’s it. When you see “organic” on the label, as on all Cascadian Farm products, you know it meets strict standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Furthermore, organic growers must be certified by USDA-approved agencies, so you know they play by the rules.
But what about “natural”? Does it mean the same thing as “organic”? Not according to the USDA. Only food labeled “organic” meets national organic standards. Even though foods claiming to be “free-range,” “natural,” and “hormone-free” are plentiful, they are not necessarily “organic” unless specified.
Not All Organics Are the Same
How much of a given product is organic is another matter. To find out, look at the label. 100% Organic means all of a product's content is certified organic. Organic means at least 95% of it is (the other 5% can be minerals, vitamins and other minor ingredients). Made with Organic Ingredients means at least 70% of the product’s content is certified organic. Less than 70% organic content, and a product may only flag individual ingredients as organic on its label.
Now that we know what foods make the “organic” cut, a question remains: are organic foods any better for you?
Think of it like this: it isn’t just about what you consume, but what you don’t. By eating and cooking with organic foods, you limit your exposure to synthetic insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals that can’t be used on organic crops. Fewer mysterious ingredients means fewer things to worry about.
By keeping synthetic chemicals out of our air and water, organic growing practices helps reduce our impact on the environment. Soil stays healthier and erodes less, too, so it’s good to grow another day. Farmers see other benefits as well, like greater diversity of wildlife around their farms, not to mention avoiding handling synthetic pesticides.
Of course, no one would bother with organic food if it wasn’t also delicious. So whether you’re all about the environment, your health, or just eating what tastes good, being Organic Aware can help you shop (and eat) a little smarter.