The Junk Food Alternative is More Junk Food

November 9th, 2012 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on The Junk Food Alternative is More Junk Food

In September, at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, I was struck by how organic and natural foods have completely mimicked pretty much every available grocery item that you would find at a conventional market. If you want candy corn, there’s an organic alternative. The same is true for potato chips, and pretty much every type of candy that you see on the shelves of stores that pay little attention to organic and natural foods.

But is this really a good development? Granted, the organic alternatives are produced without using chemical pesticides, fertilizers, synthetic ingredients, radiation or bioengineering. Organic, however, refers to how the food was farmed. It does not necessarily mean that the food isn’t processed… or even highly processed. So, even though the sugar used in “organic junk food” may be organic, it can also be white refined sugar, and the nutritional value of organic junk food will typically be no better than that of conventional junk food. Yes, the sugar beets grown to produce the sugar are better for the environment and do not contain pesticides (which of course are detrimental to our health), but even so, there’s no denying – it’s still junk food. Organic chips and candy will still contribute to obesity, and as a matter of fact, there are some who will argue that it’s even more of a problem, since a consumer is often likely to eat organic and natural junk food believing that because of how it was raised, it is actually good for them.

It’s great we now have organic brown rice syrup or organic evaporated cane juice – but let’s be clear – it’s still sugar. And organic sweetened beverages and candy bars – these are not necessarily healthy foods. Quite honestly, they are simply organic junk food. I appreciate that if all cane sugar and sugar beets were raised organically, our environment would certainly benefit. But I would also argue that people who eat these foods are still vulnerable to obesity, diabetes, and other detrimental effects that we suffer from because of our abundant intake of processed sugar.

It’s important to realize that even though these items are raised according to organic standards, and we should commend them for using organic ingredients, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are necessarily healthy food. I’m not getting up on a soap box and proposing that we completely eliminate sugar from our diets – it’s clearly here to stay. I’m just encouraging people to be educated and informed – to realize that just because it’s an organic or natural product does not necessarily mean that every bite is healthy. It’s an interesting irony, and one that we should all be mindful of.