Thursday, August 7, 2014

Defining Confusing Food Terms

When it comes to the food we consume, it is very important to know what we are eating. Over the years with all the diets and food allergies that have risen, some of the terms that we see all over the place may also be confusing to some people. Some may sound like it is the best for us to eat, but according to its true definition, it is not all that it may seem. Here is a list of some of the common most confusing food terms:

You would think that the product is made with the freshest, rawest ingredients possible. No artificial anything in it, right? Well, the FDA does not even have a formal definition of what this term means. It does allow it to be used for food that does not contain any added color, artifical flavors or synthetic substances. You think natural, you think healthy but that is not always the case. You still need to read the ingredients list.

This term has been very popular over the course of the last 5-10 years. Organic, organic organic... everbody wants organic. The USDA Organic seal indicates that a food was produced without synthetic pesticides, GMO's or petroleum or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. The symbol also means that organic meat and dairy products are from animals that are fed organic, vegeterian feed and are provided access to outdoors. They are also not treated with hormones or antibiotics. Bet you did not know all that. But what becomes confusing is the percentage organic it is. 100% organic obviously is the best; however, just using the term "organic" says that it is made with at least 95% organic ingredients. If you see the term "made with organic ingredients" it drops to only 70% organic ingredients. Again, if you think the term organic also means healthy... you have to look a little further into that ingredient list.

Gluten Free
According to the FDA, this term means that it limited the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 parts per million. Also, it does not necessarily mean it's healthy, whole grain, organic or low carbs. In fact, many gluten free foods are highly processed and contain ingredients such as refined white rice, sugar and salt.

Grass Fed
We all want our meat to come from grass-fed beef because it consumes "natural" food. What most people are mistaken by is that it does not mean it is organic meat. Grass fed means that cattle must be fed by their mother's milk or forage from grass or other greens. The forage can be grazed during the growing season, or consumed as hay or other stored forage, and the animals must have access to pasture during the growing season. The term does not mean that the feed is organic and it also does not mean the cattle is not given antibiotics or hormones.

This term can be taken loosely. If we are thinking local, we are thinking produced right here in the Illinois Valley.  However, there again is no real definition of what this term means. Is local within 3 miles, 30 miles or 300 miles. And when it comes to food, it does not mean organic nor does it mean more nutritious. There are no guidelines pertaining to the ingredients or the processing of the product. What you need to be careful with is that buying local food sometimes does not come with a nutritional label so you do not know everything in it.

As you can see, although we view these terms as some of the best when it comes to the food we buy and eat, it can still be confusing knowing you are actually eating the best possible products out there.

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