Saturday, January 2, 2016

Healthy Eating In 2016: Differentiating Between 'Natural', 'Organic' and Non-GMO Foods

According to a CBS online poll given yesterday morning, 41 percent of Americans have a New Year's resolution to "eat healthier" and that includes adopting a healthier lifestyle. But it's easier said than done given most folks don't even know how many calories are in a small popcorn (1079) when they go to the cinema and most don't know the difference between natural, organic and non-GMO foods.

I myself don't believe in New Year's "resolutions" which are more about ostentatious self-promotion and predicated on false confidence. I do believe that one ought to realize the need to eat healthy - at least most of the time, anyway - which basically means you don't have Egg McMuffins for breakfast every day and don't gorge on burgers or steaks for main meals. Thus, common sense has to enter the picture to avoid debilitating diseases such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes etc.

Now, given one wants to eat healthier in the new year for one's own long term benefit - not any special one year "resolution" - how does one tell the difference between foods touted as natural, organic and non-GMO? It's difficult because many food producers adopt the names only as marketing ploys.

But here are the basic distinctions in a nutshell:

"Natural" generally refers to foods that have no preservatives or anti-biotics. Generally, you have to look beyond the wrappers with the healthy leaves and trees on them to the actual contents. If you see a lot of chemical names - which you can't pronounce- then it's not really "natural".

"Organic" (according to the USDA) means producers must keep out most synthetic pesticides and certain fertilizers and that animals used to produce these foods (e.g. chickens) are able to get outdoors year -round and aren't given anti-biotics.

In addition, organic "is non-GMO" according to Cathy Calfo, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers.


She also added "Non-GMO is not organic" (WSJ, Dec. 9, p. B1)

Here's the deal (ibid.):

"The federal government doesn't regulate non-GMO labeling.  Instead certification is done by private groups, mainly the non-GMO project. "

These groups also allow the use of synthetic pesticides, but they do more stringent tests to ensure GMOs aren't inadvertently mixed into ingredients during transportation or production.

The best food choice then would appear to be organic. You get the benefit of non-GMO but also the absence of the synthetic pesticides that over time can cause cancers.

Non-GMO food purchases, meanwhile, have grown by 70 percent over the past year and are projected to increase even more in 2016. This preference is also why the GMO food producers don't want labeling. They'd rather deny the American citizen the right to know what's in foods than to lose profits.

Beyond all the kerfuffle about natural, organic and non-GMO, the biggest difference one can make to eating healthier is to knock out the sugary confections like candy bars, M&Ms and the like. Those are the main culprits undermining the nation's health. If you want sugars go for the natural ones, i.e. in oranges, apples, grapes etc.

Given my battle to reduce blood glucose that is my foremost challenge this year and I can say that so far I am succeeding.  I've had no sugary confections since Thanksgiving.

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