Food the ‘Au Natural’ Way: Natural vs. Organic

Dietitians and healthcare professionals alike are all on the same page when it comes to promoting health and wellbeing especially when it comes to the food you eat. So why not look at food at its rawest form? Many of you may be aware of the hype surrounding organic and ‘natural’ foods thinking they are the same when in fact, they are not!

 We have become a society where food plays a major role in health and illness and focus is being placed on diets that promote health and wellbeing, prevent diseases and also, protect the environment. Top diets that appear to fall under such categories are those that promote either ‘natural’ or organic foods. The term ‘natural’ is used to describe foods that are free from preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colours, artificial additives, stabilizers, hydrogenated oils, hormones, added vitamins and so on. Basically, we are talking about minimally processed food!

As a dietitian, I do advocate for the all natural and unprocessed but sometimes, a number of factors may affect a person’s decision such as food availability, prices and storage. There is no doubt that fresh, unprocessed produce is the best but that doesn’t mean that good nutrition is not obtained from other options given that the foods you choose regardless of method of production, fall under the healthy eating guidelines. Here is a list of my essential raw and natural ingredients that should be on your shopping list:

  • Salmon: An absolute favourite of mine, which should be included in everyone’s diet (vegetarians are an exception of course). Personally, I believe that Salmon is one of the top meats that everyone should consume on a weekly basis if not more often. Whether served raw as sashimi or baked in the oven, salmon has endless benefits. It is an excellent source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids which are healthy fats that reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. They are simply great for protecting your heart. Salmon also contains important minerals like iron, calcium and selenium which is essential for building up of tissues such as nails and hair. It is also a source of vitamins A, B and D.
  • Cucumbers: Some may call them boring but I find that cucumbers tend to be taken for granted. Cucumbers are the easiest way to up your intake of water for hydration and fibre. The cucumber’s flesh is mainly composed of water and its outer skin contains the fibre. It is also a source of potassium and magnesium. Cucumbers are believed to help improve the complexion and health of your skin. Additionally, some may use cucumbers to help sooth burns and reduce eye swelling (i.e. puffy eyes!). So if you do plan to make a salad, don’t forget to add this important ingredient that will give your water and fibre intake a boost!
  • Pomegranate: A funny looking, small, colourful fruit that is packed with goodness! Pomegranate is a source of vitamin C, B5, potassium and flavonoids and is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Such properties have been investigated with Osteoarthritis where pomegranate compounds were believed to ease inflammation of the joints and preserve cartilage. Also considered another ‘protector of the heart’, some research shows that pomegranate may help reduce bad cholesterol in the body, lowering the risk of a heart attack.
  • Ginger: Used in cuisines for its great flavoursome kick and for health due to its medicinal properties, Ginger is considered one of the top contenders in the nutrition world. Ginger is believed to boost your immune system, aid in digestion and help ease symptoms such as nausea. It is also believed to improve circulation. Many, myself included, may consume ginger as a hot beverage when fighting the common cold as it can act as a natural decongestant. A quick and easy way to include ginger in your diet is to add it to juice! Grate a bit of ginger root and put it in a juicer, along with carrots, apples and oranges.

Now, moving on to organic foods. People assume that the nutrient value of organic food is better. That is not necessarily true. The term organic refers to farming without the use of synthetic chemicals such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides. No irradiation of food is involved and no genetic modification is used. Organic farming also considers the welfare of animals and the environment where animals are treated humanely. The environment is also protected by the use of natural farming cycles and conservation of soil, water & energy. Organic foods are usually more expensive because organic farming is more labour intensive & production tends to be smaller since no pesticides & other chemicals are used. The two main reasons why people buy organic food include the following:

* Concerns over the long-term health effects of pesticides, chemical residues and antibiotics.

* Concerns for the environment where the use of modern farming has led to a number of problems related to soil fertility. Organic farming basically supports environment sustainability.

In regards to the nutritional value of organic food vs. conventionally grown food, studies have failed to show a significant difference in key vitamin & mineral contents. Only small differences were noted in that organic food demonstrated:

  • Higher levels of Vitamin C & Selenium
  • Lower levels of nitrate

My verdict on going organic :If you’re thinking in terms of health – consuming organic foods is a way to reduce your exposure to synthetic chemicals & antibiotics. Nutrient value is pretty much the same, however, some people believe that organic tastes much better! If you’re concerned about our environment, then do support organic farming!

Keep it Real.. With endless technologies enabling food producers to supply us with basically anything and everything, whenever, I am a strong believer that a person should try to keep things natural, chemical free and minimally processed in order to protect our bodies from any unknown or possible damage that may or may not occur in the long run.

  1. I completely agree with your suggestion of including natural food to our diets. The post has helped me in making my shopping list. Great information about organic farming and food. Waiting for your next update.

  2. Food prices have risen faster in recent years than ever before. As many of us are feeling the pinch, it is time to reevaluate some of our food purchases. The term “organic” has been thrown around in the shopping aisles like sprinkles on the jelly donut you’re trying to avoid. It seems like hundreds of new “organic” products have emerged, all with a price tag about 30% higher than the regular option. Is it really worth the extra money, or are we all being duped with a clever marketing campaign to get us to buy essentially the same thing for a lot more? ..

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