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You’re at the grocery market and you come across two very similar products, but don’t know which one to choose. They both look the same and both promise certain health benefits that appeal to you. Only difference is, one reads organic and the other reads natural. So which one do you choose?

Don’t be so quick to assume that the terms organic and natural are interchangeable. Both terms imply that the product is healthy and made from nature, but if you look beyond the labels, you’ll find that there’s a striking difference between the two. Products that are labeled organic or natural lack chemically produced substances that deteriorate one’s health with time, but in many countries, there’re strict regulations as to which products can be labeled organic.

What makes a product organic?

For a product to be certified organic, it must meet the standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the National Organic Program. The organic label indicates that the product has been produced, manufactured and handled using organic farming tactics. Some products also provide the percentage as to how much of the product is actually organic. Anything less than 70 percent is automatically ruled out as organic and can only provide the individual ingredient that is organic. Organic products, though, must label every organic ingredient it possesses.

What about natural products?

The term natural is loosely used which is why it can be skewed to imply that the product is healthy or environmentally friendly, but what natural really means is that the product has been subjected to minimal processing. Unlike organic products that have to be USDA certified, products that are labeled natural have no governmental certification or have to undergo an inspection system. Look at it this way: when you see a bag of potato chips that reads, “Made with all natural potatoes” it’s safe to assume that, yes, natural potatoes were used in the process of this product. How else are potato chips made? However, flipping the bag to the back will indicate that preservatives were added in order to create this product and retain its freshness.

So, are organic products healthier?

It may sound a bit odd, but there has been little evidence provided that proves that organic products are healthier than natural products. However, the differences that are apparent between the two often refers to pesticides and antibiotics. Ingesting organic products are often free of harmful pesticides that have been linked to many cancers and diseases. Demands for foods that are considered wholesome and healthy have evolved throughout the years and because of this, food producers have been encouraged to label their products as “natural” whether they’re organic or not.

Consider this:

Next time you’re at the grocery market, read the fine print on all the products you intend on purchasing—this will help you make knowledgeable choices when deciding what to buy. Also, be aware that a product with a label that reads organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than one that reads natural. Due to strict regulations, some products may not qualify for the USDA label and this can be because of the size of the operation and pricey fees that must be paid, but they may practice organic procedures. If you find yourself still puzzled, don’t be afraid to question farmers and manufacturers. After all, it’s your body and what you put in and on it, should be a vital priority.

Image Source: Tiffany Terry/Flickr