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Miraculous Misconceptions: You say “Natural” or “Organic”, I say yeah right…..


 
As a dietitian, I have to say I become acutely aware of my surroundings when it comes to food.  I hear the discussions dictating what you should or shouldn’t eat.  I hear opinions about what a good or bad food is.  I see the mother tell their child they can’t eat that “bad” food and then watch that particular child inhale their Halloween candy or that piece of cake like it is their last meal.   I also see Pre Diabetes, high cholesterol, Cancer, and obesity with many clients who are eating what they “should” as well as clients with eating disorders who can recall issues with food as early as eight years old.

There are many reasons why Americans particularly have issues understanding foods predominant role of nourishment. When you combine any of these issues with the confusion of food labeling chaos sets in.  Our food labels are a complete mess and create confusion on many levels.

In an article in the NY Times this weekend, organic and natural hot dogs as well as additional processed meats were discussed.  Have you seen the “natural” or “organic” hot dogs?   Notice the label as it states “uncured” or “no nitrates or nitrites added.”   One would think this was a healthier option, no?  Apparently not, as rules dictate that if preservatives come from natural sources you can label as if no nitrates or nitrites are in the product.  Interestingly enough, the “natural” or “organic” hot dog can have one half or up to ten times the nitrite as compared to the regular hot dog. 

The USDA does require that the organic or natural hot dog versions state that it may contain a naturally occurring nitrate or nitrite but when this small print is combined with the label "no nitrates or nitrites” this becomes quite confusing.

The American Cancer Society recommends reducing processed meats secondary to many studies linking increased consumption to colon cancer.  In addition, it is thought that high consumption in processed meats promotes Diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Recent research suggests nitrates and nitrites provide some benefits to immune function and cardiovascular health.

Because the labeling is so confusing, manufacturers are asking to allow for more truthful labels for hot dogs and other processed meats.  The USDA states they are aware of the problems and may take a fresh look.  Until then, my best suggestion as a dietitian is to completely ignore any claims on any food.  If you want to understand what is truly in what you are eating, take the time to pull the product and read the ingredients.  The more ingredients it has, the less “natural”, “organic”, and “healthy” the food is.  Have any questions? Reach out to a dietitian.  We can decipher the confusion and give our expert opinions.  Good luck and be well.

Nitrates and Nitrites provide the red coloring in your hot dogs in addition to preservation

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