During summer with its plentiful supply of fresh, locally grown produce, it's a great time to think about using food for more than just fuel but as a key element in preventing a host of diseases. As you strive to make healthier food choices, you may come across the terms natural and organic. But what exactly do these terms mean?
Organic refers specifically to the agricultural methods used to cultivate the food. Organic farms forego most conventional pesticides and use no antibiotics or growth hormones to raise animals.
Natural, however, isn't as clearly defined. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not established a formal definition for this term. But the agency does state that in order for foods to bear the term "natural," they must be "minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives; artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors and other additives; hydrogenated oils; stabilizers and emulsifiers." This certainly applies to a broad range of foods.
As you can see, natural and organic are not the same thing. One more difference is that natural foods don't have to be organically grown and organic foods may contain preservatives. Further, the term organic is more regulated than the term natural. For a product to be labeled organic, it must meet USDA standards and be certified under the National Organic Program.
Both natural and organic foods can help you prevent disease, eat healthier, or eat green to protect our environment. While it is true that not every natural or organic food is necessarily a healthy food (like organic cookies), getting back to the basics with some natural and organic foods is a good start.
Johns Hopkins University