It’s tempting to pretend everything we eat is sun-kissed tomatoes straight from the garden, but let’s face it, we all have at least one secret Whole Foods purchase, from pesticide-free versions of our favorite microwaveable oatmeal packs to GMO-free ones Gummy candies for the packaged mac and cheese, complete with a not so neon-colored, but still fairly processed cheese powder package. (Seriously, how does the powdered cheese taste so damn good?)
Well, it turns out we don’t need to feel guilty for these guilty joys. A new peer-reviewed study by EWG scientists is just the first to look at how much healthier organically processed foods are than non-organically processed foods. And the answer is … a lot.
The study analyzed more than 80,000 foods and found that organic products contained significantly fewer ingredients associated with negative health effects (think glyphosate, which the World Health Organization identified as a likely carcinogen for humans in 2015, or Carrageenan, which some have linked to intestinal inflammation and is banned in infant formula and other foods for children in the EU.) Of course, that’s no surprise: these and others – like synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and more are under organic -Certification prohibited, which allows fewer than 40 total synthetic additives.
According to the study, organic packaged foods also had fewer of the ultra-processed ingredients, some of which early research showed may actually encourage overeating. (As in … the more crap you eat, the more crap you want to eat. Does that sound familiar to you?)
From the organic authority files
And to top it off, packaged organic foods also contain more potassium and less added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. In fact, the study showed that the less the food contained sodium, sugar, additives and highly processed ingredients, the more likely it was to be classified as organic.
This research contradicts two previous studies in the same area, but it also has some key differences. Compared to a 2014 study that compared only ready-to-eat breakfast cereals or a 2020 study in Italy that used a much smaller sample size, this new study has overcome the limitations of previous research to address these to reach exciting conclusions.
Look, it’s no surprise that whole foods are always best. But nearly 60 percent of the calories consumed by Americans are processed or packaged, a number on the rise: A study shows that teenagers between the ages of two and 19 in the United States get even more calories from highly processed foods – an average of 67 percent. In 2018, more than 70 percent of packaged food and beverage shipments in 2018 were ultra-processed, a category identified by the NOVA Food Classification System developed at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil as “industrial formulations made entirely or primarily of Substances Derived from Food ”, essentially more laboratory than goodness and a category associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. And according to the authors of the study, the more processed the more processed a food is, the more likely it is high in calories, contains more trans fats, saturated fats, added sugars and sodium, and that is what we as a society already consume “more than recommendations” according to US dietary guidelines.
Organic products have already shown that they offer better health benefits than conventional ones, not just because of what isn’t in, but thanks to what they contain. Organic foods often have better nutritional profiles, with higher omega-3 levels in meat and dairy products and higher antioxidant profiles in fruits and vegetables. And now we know that in addition to the fresh stuff, whether processed foods are part of your daily routine or an occasional treat, the comforting you are reaching for an organic alternative to ultra-processed chips, popcorn, or even microwaveable mac and cheese Indeed, you are making a better choice.
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