Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Organic verses Organic

Organic food is becoming more and more popular as people begin to realize the health benefits of eating foods that haven’t been exposed to the harsh chemicals and toxins as their non-organic shelf mates. As demand for these nutritionally superior foods goes up so does the potential for profit, which can cause a problem when greed has a negative impact on the integrity of the product. Sales of organic foods have risen to over 20 billion dollars in 2008, which is nearly twenty times what is was in the early 90’s. With profit margins like these, it was inevitable that the large food manufactures would want (and undoubtedly get) a piece of the action. This transition though, from the local organic farm to the hands of large corporations, has been the subject of many debates. On the one hand it enables everyone, not just those living in the country, to have the choice between buying organic or non-organic foods at their local grocery store, since only the large corporations have the money and the manpower to mass-produce and transport these foods across the country…across the world.

From this standpoint it can be looked at as a blessing, but at what cost? Since large corporations have no real tangible relationship with their customers (unlike the local farmers who are part of the community in which they sell) there only real concern is money in their pocket, and this money enables them to influence the ever evolving standards at which the organic food industry is governed. This is evident in the organic section of your local grocery or health food store, where you’re bound to find frozen pre-made ready to eat meals; sure they have organic ingredients but they also contain additives and preservatives (to help maintain a long profitable shelf life) that surly conflict with the core ethics behind which the organic industry was started. Who thought the day would ever come when you could go to the store and buy an organic microwavable meal; it’s an oxymoron if there ever was one. Its just another great example of large corporations using the average persons busy on-the-go life style to their monetary advantage, and why not?

So what is the poor innocent shopper to do when faced with all of these seemingly “healthy choices”? For starters, if it sounds to good to be true than it’s probably not the healthiest choice. The key with any food product (organic or not) is minimally processed. Each process a food must undergo affects the nutritional integrity of the product itself. Another good tip is to choose products that have the least amount of ingredients; avoid the additives and preservatives that are so often found in packaged foods. Finally and most importantly make sure that at the core of your healthy diet you have plenty of whole foods (fruits, vegetables, and grains); they have the highest content of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your body needs.

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