• Category: Blog
  • Published Dated: March 17, 2014
  • Writen by:

Natural is good and sounds about as close to ideal as possible when it comes to food. Don’t we assume that if a food is natural it’s coming to us straight from the vine of some glistening orchard somewhere, or that it is unprocessed and unaltered and wonderful?  Sorry to break it to us, but sadly “natural” has historically been without a clear meaning and because this the case, it’s a good thing that we are finally starting to have more regulations on which foods and beverages can and cannot be labeled as natural.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “natural foods” are meant to contain “nothing artificial or synthetic, including all color additives regardless of source.”  In other words, things aren’t supposed to be added to foods that wouldn’t normally be expected to be present in them.  Petroleum-based dyes to change the color?  Nope.  Brominated vegetable oil to stabilize and add to flavor?  Uh, no.  Hydrogenated oils for stability at room temperature?  Nope.

Just last September a Food Labeling Modernization Act was introduced in Congress, although it’s enactment remains to be seen in full force.  The FDA is to establish a standardized nutrition labeling system and guidelines for use of the word “natural.”  Interestingly enough, at least 100 lawsuits have been filed over the last two years in challenge to claims by brands advertising their products as natural, with some of the claims being challenged for being too ambiguous.  As a result, some of the lawsuits have ended with multi-million dollar settlements and the demands for more clarity among consumers are starting to become more audible.  For example, Naked Juice agreed to pay $9 million after a lawsuit for “all natural” claims with products containing the ingredients cyanocobalamin (synthetic vitamer of vitamin B-12), Fibersol®-2 (soluble corn fiber), and pyridoxine hydrochloride (synthetic B-6).  These are common ingredients in supplements and are not bad ingredients; they just aren’t quite natural.  Shouldn’t consumers be made aware?

So, then is natural the only way to go?  I prefer going for “simple.”   In other words, while my diet and the diet of my family members is based on a foundation of real and whole foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, we do our best to choose better and best and go for as natural as possible in life’s situations.  We limit nitrates in our meat choices and don’t go for low-fat everything, due to the mass of unnecessary ingredients so often in these foods.  We don’t obsess.  Eating “naturally” is not a religion, but rather a preference for feeling our best and investing in our health and long-term well-being.  I read labels and aim for foods with simple ingredients, rather than those with a “laundry list” used to make up for reduced calories with compositional changes.  And yes. sometimes in a time-crunch, this morning actually, I send my daughter to school with a smoothie and  Z-Bar, or I pack a Perfectly Simple bar, as well as an apple or smoothie when I’m on the go with meetings or in between teaching classes.  These aren’t perfectly natural options, but they are better than chips and other completely unnatural and unhealthy options.  Go for as healthy and unproccessed as possible to feel your best . . . but don’t obsess.  Think good, better and best.  Progression and awareness are key.

It’s great that consumers are seeking out more nutrition savvy foods, rather than just processed junk.  We want quality and we want to feel well as a result of the food choices we make.  Maybe, just maybe, more of us are reaching for  more natural options, finding satisfaction in the accompanying nourishment they provide, along with whole foods, rather than processed and altered CRAP (calorie-rich and processed).  Many are becoming more educated as consumers and are less likely to fall prey to claims made on product labels and in advertisements, because smart choices are more about health than they are about marketing prerogatives.

Game plan: 

  • •  Choose foods that have been produced safely, fairly, sustainably and humanely.
  • •  Read nutrition labels carefully and pay special attention to ingredients in the foods you eat.
  • •  Eat more of the foods that don’t come with nutrition labels, namely fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • •  Grow an organic garden and make it fun to experiment with new crops and recipes.
  • •  Don’t give processed foods a “health halo” that they don’t deserve.  For example, just because 7UP used to contain vitamin E (until regulators said no more to the far-fetched claims), doesn’t mean that it was a healthy choice that led to reduced oxidation in the body and enhanced health.

 How will you make better and best nutrition choices this week and moving forward?  

All the best!



eat well nourish









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