Non-GMO Month: Understanding Natural, Non-GMO & Certified Organic

I’ve been receiving numerous questions throughout the last year about Non-GMO food products in comparison to “USDA Certified Organic” and “Natural” food products and I’ve realized these terms are quite confusing for most of you. Therefore, I wanted to put together some information to share with you about what’s what so you can walk into a food store like a champ and walk out feeling like you conquered it- not walking out feeling defeated by confusing labeling.

Trust me. I know the feeling. I, too, sometimes walk into food stores where there are numerous labels staring at me in the face and I’m left perplexed and confused. I know a lot of you wish food shopping could be a whole lot easier, which is why I want to talk about Non-GMO, Natural and Certified Organic with you so you can get to know your products and understand the advertising lingo that you see scattered throughout the food store. Furthermore, it’s Non-GMO Month, so I thought it would be the perfect time to address these labeling concerns.

One of the most common misconceptions is that many people think that “Natural” means Organic. Sadly, the word “Natural” is not a regulated term. Consumers think “Natural” means it’s a healthier choice than something that’s not “Natural” but to be completely honest with you, the proof is on the ingredient label. That’s where you’re going to see if the product is healthy for you or not. Can you read the ingredients? Or are there a whole bunch of terms on there that you don’t understand? Is it made from whole, organic foods? Or is it made from chemicals? That’s where you need to look to get your answer. Skip over the “Natural” label and look at what the company is using to make the food or food-like product they’re selling to you.

Another area where people seem to get confused is differentiating between the terms “Certified Organic” and “Non-GMO”. It’s important to note that all organic products are Non-GMO, however, the opposite is not true: Non-GMO products are not organic. That’s not to say that Non-GMO products are bad, it’s a matter of you choosing what you’d rather eat and feed your family because a product that’s not Certified Organic but is Non-GMO is grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. If you want food free from toxic chemicals and GMO’s, organic is your choice. For me, personally with my health, I choose organic because I’d rather not burden my liver with any more toxins than I’m bombarded by on a regular basis (from tap water, toothpaste, car exhaust, deodorant, plastic wraps surrounding our food, makeup, sunscreen, etc.). Our livers work hard enough trying to detox these toxins on a daily basis, so why not give your liver a break and reach for organic foods as much as possible? Organic is much more than not using chemicals or GMO’s; true organic agriculture regenerates the soil and helps reduce greenhouse gases. Certified Organic is the gold-standard of quality when it comes to food products. Look for the green and white USDA Organic Seal on your food packages to ensure the product is organic.

You may be wondering where you find these organic products? These days, they’re scattered all over the food store. They’re also stocked in healthy food stores and farmer’s markets. Some food stores may have dedicated organic aisles where you can trust that every product presented is organic and Non-GMO. For instance, the number 9 will be featured on all Certified Organic produce such as apples and bananas. Look at the stickers on your fruits and veggies and if you want to purchase Certified Organic produce, you’ll want to reach for the ones with a number 9 on their sticker. When it comes to the inner aisles, make sure you’re reading the ingredient list to ensure your product is healthy and organic. For instance, if you have children, you can look for a brand such as Nature’s Path Superfood bars for an afternoon snack instead of cookies and nutrient-void crackers. Or you can purchase a handful of organic produce such as apples, papaya, celery and pears and serve them sliced with a few scoops of almond butter for a healthy snack anytime of the year.

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