Are you looking to eat healthier and aren’t sure where to start? First, you’ll need to understand the different types of food that exist. Then, you can make better nutritional choices.
Organic foods have gotten more media attention in recent years, and they’re now easier to find in supermarkets. We’ll look at what they are and how they differ from their processed counterparts.
What Is Organic Food?
Farmers must follow specific rules to market their products as organic. In the United States, the National Organic Program (NOP) is responsible for regulating the labeling of these types of foodstuffs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) helps enforce NOP guidelines.
The NOP maintains a long list of natural and synthetic materials that producers can and can’t use on organic crops. Toxic substances, like pesticides or petroleum-based products, are prohibited. Ash from burnt manure is also not allowed.
Livestock for organic meat production must consume feed that’s free of GMOs, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Many specific medications are prohibited for use with these animals, too.
The idea with organic foods is to keep them as pure and natural as possible, avoiding contamination with substances harmful to humans.
What is Natural Food?
Natural food isn’t the same as organic, but its nutritional value is similar. This differs from organic in that it’s not subject to the same rigorous growing standards as organics.
However, natural food is healthier than processed. It comes directly from the source and has few or no additives or preservatives. For example, the following foods are considered this type and make for healthy eating:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Lean meat sources, fish, poultry, and eggs
- Whole grains
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Minimally Processed Foods
There are some types of food that people classify in more than one way. For example, pre-cut apple slices, hard-boiled eggs, and frozen vegetables may be called processed or unprocessed depending on who does the labeling.
In such cases, you’ll want to choose the least processed option that fits your needs. If you can purchase fresh produce, that’s always the best choice.
However, you may not find the fresh fruits and vegetables you need at certain times of the year. So, you may need to rely on frozen or canned versions.
In general, frozen foods are better for your health than tinned. The canning process often relies on adding salt as a preservative. This type of production may also include BPA in their packaging.
What Are Processed Foods?
Processed foods undergo significant alterations from their natural state before their sale to consumers. Manufacturers make these changes for a few reasons:
- To give food a longer shelf life
- To simplify consumers’ lives
- To make more money
Processed foods generally have more than one ingredient. They’re often high in sugar and detrimental substances like trans and saturated fats. They typically contain dyes, preservatives, or other chemicals.
Some examples of processed foods are:
- Lunchmeat: sausage, ham, and bacon
- Savory snacks like chips and crisps
- Cake mixes or store-bought cakes
- Sweets like candy, cookies, muffins, donuts, and soda
- Frozen dinners or other ready-to-eat meals
- Fast food
Health Benefits of Choosing Organic
Processed foods tend to be high in empty calories. In other words, they provide energy for the body without giving much nourishment.
Research indicates that processed food is a leading cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers. Most of these conditions were very rare before the widespread consumption of processed foods, especially those containing flour and sugar.
Unprocessed, natural foods are rich in nutrients and free of dangerous compounds. If you can find mostly organic foods to buy, they’re even safer due to the restrictions on chemical use during their production.
It’s best to consume foods in the most natural form possible. For example, whole-wheat flour is healthier than white. Potatoes are much better for you than potato chips, and a whole orange has much higher nutritional value than packaged orange juice.
Our bodies need vitamins, minerals, water, amino acids, fiber, fatty acids, and complex carbohydrates. Natural foods provide these to support optimal nutrition.
As a result, they can help keep your blood sugar stable, lower cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Organic foods can help you lose weight and keep your body and mind in superb condition. Unprocessed edibles also support higher energy levels and better sleep quality.
Organic foods are excellent for supporting optimal health because they’re free of toxic chemicals during the growth process and afterward. Since they’re natural, they contain all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
Processed foods, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. Their empty calories don’t truly nourish you, and exaggerating their consumption can cause many health problems. Organic options are the best choice to support your physical and mental well-being.