Monday, May 18, 2009
When you head to the grocery store, shopping for products like eggs, meat, fish, milk, and produce can be very tricky. Signs are posted everywhere labeling food as natural, organic, and a number of other things—but what’s the difference, really? Learning what specific names mean can help you decide if you should shell out extra money on a product or if its simply a marketing ploy.
Natural is a term associated with a number of fruit and vegetable products. Typically, this is simply a marketing ploy to convince you to buy the product. After all, all fruits and vegetables are natural, right? Unless it’s a new kind of food that has been developed and processed, the product is natural. What you really probably want is organic. Organic foods are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
There are two main benefits to organic foods. First, you are helping the environment because those chemicals are not being introduced into nature. Secondly, you are avoiding ingesting chemicals and are therefore eating more healthy foods. However, organic products are usually more expensive. If you’re on a budget, skip over organic fruits and vegetables that you can peel, like oranges and bananas. After all, once you’ve discarded the peel, you’ve also discarded the chemicals. Instead, opt for organic items like apples, where you eat the peel. No matter what you buy, however, make sure that you rinse off the food when you get home.
Another tricky label you will see is “no hormones.” This is usually in regards to milk or meat products and is false, since all animals naturally produce hormones. Hormones are what helps an animal (even a human) regulate body organs, have young, and otherwise function. All meat products have hormones. What the labels really mean is that no hormones were unnaturally given to the animal, which is sometimes done to increase milk production. Regardless of hormones, however, the milk and meat is safe for a person and not a violation of an animal’s rights.
Lastly, a label on eggs and meat can indicate if the animal was caged or penned. This does not make a difference in the quality or nutritional value of the meat, but is simply a matter of animal rights. These products may be a bit more expensive, but if you want to make human decisions, that is the way to go. Reading the label and making healthy choices can sometimes be difficult, but learning how to do so can help you make the best choices for you diet.