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Natural, processed, organic: Is there really a difference?

10.22.13 |

The short answer is yes!

Take peanut butter, for example. Natural peanut butter consists of peanuts and sometimes a bit of salt. That’s it!

Processed peanut butters, including most of the familiar national brands, contain peanuts and salt as well as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, along with other ingredients that are completely unnecessary and can have a negative effect on your health—not to mention that once you’ve gotten used to the real thing, the processed stuff tastes like plastic.

Today’s beef, lamb, pork, and poultry are all processed with antibiotics and even growth hormones—a practice that increases production for the food industry, but brings its own set of problems, including increasing resistance to antibiotics on the part of bacteria. If you can, try to buy meats that aren’t processed—those labeled natural to indicate that the animal hasn’t been given antibiotics or growth hormones.

A wide assortment of these, as well as grass-fed meats, can usually be found at stores like Whole Foods Market.

And what about organic?

Organic products are becoming more and more available, even in the large supermarket chains.

For products to be labeled certified organic by the USDA, the producer needs to uphold a rigorous set of standards that go beyond natural. As demand for organics grows, so does the industry. In time, this could prove a tremendous counterforce to the big food industry, which all too often is more concerned with high production and profit than with quality.

Yes, organic products usually cost 10 to 20 per- cent more, but the difference is worth it. You’re better off eating less meat and dairy products, but going organic, than eating more of the processed stuff.