I don’t even think the FDA knows what that means…

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This post is to help those who have questions about flexible dieting and nutrition in general. Recently, more specifically since I started my reverse, which is going swimmingly by the way, I have had a lot of questions regarding the foods I consume.

I’ve talked about how flexible dieting works for me in my life. I’ve mentioned how during my competition season I hadn’t really eliminated many foods for my nutrition plan. The ones that I did were things that I truly had no control over the macros such as some pastries and sandwiches at a local bread company (this one killed me). Aside from these two things, I still ate what I wanted as long as it fit during the day and helped me reach my nutrition goals. I’ve also mentioned that I don’t like labeling foods as clean or dirty because I believe the negative connotation can create a poor relationship with food. Some don’t believe this and that’s 100% fine, but I also have binge eating disorder in my history so this is my philosophy.

So, some of the foods I like to enjoy happen to be “processed”. This word is tricky because many foods are processed, even if it’s only minimal. Let’s look at the FDA’s definition:

United States Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Section 201, Chapter II

Processed Food: “Any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.”

So really, if you buy frozen vegetables or fruit because they’re cheaper than fresh, but you know them to be just as healthy – you’re eating something processed. Also, please keep in mind, just because you buy a bag of frozen broccoli, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing in that bag. I have found that a few brands will add salt to preserve the vegetable;however, if it’s frozen there really shouldn’t be a need for salt in the bag.

Granted, an Oreo is more processed than a bag of frozen veggies, the definition is very broad. I love Greek yogurt, for me it truly helps promote good gut health. However, it’s also a processed food. If this word concerns you, you may want to look at your cart the next time you go to the store and rethink your grocery list.

Under the same chapter are other definitions, such as raw.

Raw: “raw agricultural commodity” means any food in its raw or natural state, including all fruits that are washed, colored, or otherwise treated in their unpeeled natural form prior to marketing.

So foods that have been treated with coloring can be still considered raw… interesting.

When looking at food labeling and how the FDA has enforce regulations on companies to ensure that consumers know what they are eating, it seems as though the FDA doesn’t necessarily have clear definitions or ever thought out their expectations for recent years. Food labels were introduced 20 years ago and in 2014 the FDA was looking to make a few changes, but there were a few issues that came up, such as the definition of natural.

“Although the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term “natural,” we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of “natural” in human food labeling. The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic  (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.  However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.”

So for the most part, your food may be natural, but the term doesn’t take into consideration anything that happens at the factory. What happens at the plant, stays at the plant. I guess I should be slightly concerned about the chicken I buy.

Along with natural, people like to shop “organic.” For me, I think this partly a waste of my money, especially if I’m going to wash and peel the skin of the food. I understand wanting something that you will be eating in whole like grapes to be organic, but if natural isn’t fully or clearly defined, what does organic mean?

The National Organic Program is under the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service. That took some effort to say. The role of the NOP is to develop regulations and provide guidance on organic standards such as labeling.

So what can farmer’s use on crops and still be considered organic? Well, in Title 7, Subtitle B, Chapter 1, Subchapter M, Part 205, Subpart G of the Code of Federal Regulations— aren’t you glad I hyperlinked that? Here you can find substances that are allowed and not allowed for organic crop production.

So what’s allowed?

Algicide, disinfectants and sanitizer including ethanol alcohol and isopropanol – I know those are some long words and I’m pretty sure that I can’t even pronounce them even if I tried, but essentially, as long as you’re not contaminating the crops, soil or water, these can be used and the food can still be listed as organic.

Continuing the list: Chlorine materials for pre-harvest like calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite. As long as the the levels in the water that is sent to the irrigation systems don’t exceed a specific level, disinfectant can be used under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The list goes on and on to add herbicides and hydrogen peroxide. So really, what is organic? What would it mean to not use these products on large numbers of crops? Growing cucumbers in your side garden is one thing, it’s another to have acres of veggies that have a greater potential to be damaged by insects and disease.

Like I said, I really don’t buy organic and from the skimming through some of the regulations, it doesn’t seem like it matters a whole lot that I don’t.

I know there are some other ethical issues that others follow much more closely than I do, but the purpose of highlighting this information is to show that the terms processed, natural, raw and organic are more like marketing terms to push or influence consumer to purchase certain items. My choice to eat a variety of foods including those that man believe to be of poor nutritional value, hasn’t hindered my weightloss or health in anyway. I believe this is because of the balance I try to create by consuming vegetables and meats along with my cupcakes and cookies. There are so many eating styles and everyone’s body is different. Learning about the different styles and the science behind them may create more understanding rather than elaborate skepticism and questioning.






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