www.chicagotribune.com - September 26th, 2012
Walk down the aisles of a natural food store and you'll find a variety of organic foods, many of which are healthy whole foods, such as organic fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, dairy products, nuts, and seeds.
Unfortunately, the organic inventory doesn't stop there. Increasingly, stores are widening their organic food choices to include more processed foods, such as organic jelly beans, potato chips, cookies, and even vodka. What's wrong with all of these organic food choices? It's a matter of perception: Surveys consistently show that people perceive organic foods--no matter what they are--to be healthier than their conventional counterparts.
"Organic is on so many food packages of highly processed foods," says Andrea Giancoli, M.P.H., R.D., dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Washington, D.C. "I find that people see 'organic' on a food label and it doesn't seem to matter what the actual food is; they think it is healthful.
"Organic means that the food is farmed in a different way, which is great for the planet, but that doesn't mean it's always better for you," says Giancoli. If you see "organic" on the food label for chocolate chip cookies, all it means is that the ingredients, such as wheat, sugar, chocolate, and butter, are cultivated organically. It doesn't mean that the nutrition profile of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in those cookies is any better than the regular chocolate chip cookies across the aisle.
Giancoli explains that many organic junk foods are made of highly processed ingredients such as refined white flour, sugars, salt, and oils, offering you a great deal of calories and sodium with little nutrient payback.