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Let’s Be Clear: Organic Doesn’t Always Mean “Healthy”!

organic doesnt mean healthyThere are so many foods & drinks offered on the market nowadays that many of us subconsciously look for quick cues to determine what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Unfortunately, marketers have picked up on one of these quick cues: the word “organic”.

First of all, by definition what does organic even mean…

“Organic means crops grown without artificial pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, irradiation, or sewage sludge, and animals raised without hormones or antibiotics. Certified Organic methods follow specific rules established by USDA.”

Well, that doesn’t sound too bad right? Not so fast.

What Has Research Shown?

When you take a look at what research has shown when the word “organic” is applied to products, people’s perceptions of the product begin to change.

Cornell University ran a study involving food and brand labels in an effort to see what factors the word “organic” would influence. The study used 115 people recruited from a local shopping mall where participants were asked to evaluate 3 pairs of products: yogurt, cookies, & potato chips. Only one of the pairs was labeled as organic, and the others were not. The trick is that all of them were actually organic food products.

The researchers learned that when the food item was labeled with the word “organic”, participants estimated that the food item contained fewer calories, were lower in fat, were more nutritious, and would be willing to pay more for the product. WOW! Surprising? Not really. But the study reaffirms the belief that when the word “organic” is used, people immediately believe the product is healthier & as a result worth more money.

Gatorade’s New “Organic” Version

Gatorade has picked up on this trend. Gatorade owns roughly 70% of the market share in the sports drinks category & as a commanding leader in this market they have recently pledged to release an organic version of the product they offer that will only contain 7 ingredients that meet the criteria of the organic standards set forth by the FDA. Take this with a grain of salt; however, these sports drinks will still be loaded with sugar, which isn’t healthy for many of us.

Bottomline: Always Check the Label!

The next time you see the word “organic” used, be sure to check the back of the label and read it. Specifically look for nutrition facts in relation to serving size, and be sure to see what ingredients are actually listed. A general rule of thumb is the less ingredients listed, the more wholesome the product – but this shouldn’t equate to “healthy” because consuming too much of a healthy product is still unhealthy.

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