Organic Foods

by Celeste Sepessy, Lead Fitness Writer, HFPN

Part of the fitness movement is understanding the foods our clients eat and the choices in the grocery store that our clients face. The more our clients move towards a healthy lifestyle, the more we are constantly challenged with questions on health and nutrition – these questions include many of the health fads that have pervaded the supermarkets. One such movement is the shift towards eating “organic”. With so many food labels marketing their organic products, what exactly is organic and what do you need to know to help your clients enjoy healthy and nutritious meals? 

Organic food is grown without use of pesticides, genetically modified and chemically created ingredients. This heavily regulated industry aims to protect food from harmful, unnatural ingredients by keeping the soil healthy, says Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the Organic Consumers Association.

In 1994, the dairy industry introduced the first genetically modified product – milk. Since then, Mayer says, “We are all part of an uncontrolled experiment to see what’s going to happen to us as we age and become reproductive.” Mayer says animals that are fed these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) give off unhealthy offspring and are sometimes infertile. The effects of GMOs on humans are uncertain at this time. However, research has shown that use of Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is connected to IGF-1, which elevates risk of cancer, Mayer says. But harmful GMOs are not only found in meat byproducts. “We consume a lot of GMOs,” Mayer says. “High fructose corn syrup and soybean oils are in almost all processed foods.”

“The organic movement continues to grow, even though the economy is shrinking,” says Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the Organic Consumers Association. “We probably haven’t ever had this level of knowledge and enthusiasm for organic foods in our culture.”

In fact, U.S. organic sales grew 17 percent in 2008, according to the Organic Trade Association. Last year, sales reached $24.6 billion.

By eating organic food, people can avoid these chemical ingredients, Mayer says. “There are enormous benefits to detoxifying one’s body by avoiding pesticides, genetically modified ingredients and chemically created ingredients like high fructose corn syrup,” she says. Eating organic also ensures that the soil used to grow crops is healthy and pure. Farmers must manage their soil organically for three years before receiving certification. “When you eat organic you avoid the fossil fuel fertilizers. You avoid fertilizers made with human and animal waste that could be laden with pathogens and not treated properly before it’s put on a crop,” she says. Essentially, healthy soil creates a healthy crop. “You pull nutrition from food out of the soil it’s grown in,” she says. “You need healthy soil to have maximum vitamin content.” Whether apples or soy, organic crops deliver unaltered ingredients. But, Mayer says, shoppers must understand basic dietary principles that create a healthy diet.

As organic products reach the masses, appealing junk foods have been slapped with the organic label, which may mislead uninformed consumers.“We’ve seen a change in the organic movement,” Mayer says. “It used to be a health food movement, but now that it’s gone mainstream, you see all kinds of things in the grocery store that are certified organic and are coming from organic ingredients.” It’s important for consumers to remember that the organic label doesn’t necessarily equate health. “You can’t say a bag of organic potato chips is power food,” Mayer says. “Once you turn something into a potato chip, it loses most of its nutritional value.” 

Learn the labels
Forget “all natural.” Consumers should enter grocery store aisles with knowledge of the different types of organic labels. Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director for the Organic Consumers Association, helps NASM PRO decode the three types of organic labels. “It’s definitely best to look for the USDA organic seal,” Mayer says.

  1. USDA seal – 95 percent or more organic
    “If you’re buying all USDA organic food, you’re doing pretty good. In comparison to other things that are in the grocery store, you can have confidence in the organic label.”
  2. “Made with organic” – 75 percent or more organic
    “The next best thing is ‘Made with organic.’ You can’t guarantee that the functional ingredients are organic. It’s much less preferable.”
  3. Back label organic — minor organic ingredients
    “If you’re shopping at 7-11 because you’re road tripping, you can pick up this kind of item to support the organic movement.”
Organic Foods
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