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What Do Raw, Organic, and Natural Really Mean?

Ever at a loss when casually reading the ingredient list on your box of cereal at breakfast? It doesn’t help that manufacturers can list the same ingredient under multiple names.



First off, we should get it out of the way that there is no definitive research that proves organic foods are healthier nor safer for consumption. Having said that, although they may be more expensive, organic products in most cases are healthy for the planet. Organic food that comes from animals are given no antibiotics, and is, as the USDA National Organic Program states:


is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water …  without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bio-engineering; or ionizing radiation.


The organic seal on a product or individual ingredients may be a sign that some extra measures were taken to spare the environment, but again, the food has no apparent nutritional difference from its “non-organic” counterpart. Don’t be lured in with the thought you are definitively making a healthier choice by going organic.


The back wrapper of a Clif Bar
Organic sugar is just as bad for you as sugar, and organic protein isolate has the same amount of protein as any other isolate.


See also: How to Understand and Apply the Nutrition Facts


Pretty self-explanatory; however, do not confuse a “raw” claim with a “plain” claim. If a food is raw, all that is is a guarantee it is uncooked. Nuts, for example can be raw, yet still salted or oiled. Raw tuna can still have a sauce on it.


NaturalThis term, to be honest, does not mean much. It simply means... More

I went further in-depth to “natural” claims in my Natural vs Artificial post, but all-in-all if an ingredient or product is “natural,” it is not man-made. Some natural beverages would be fruit juice, vegetable juice, milk, etc. Non-beverages are honey, meat, cheese, potatoes, etc.


To Summarize

Next time you skim through a label or see a “all-natural, 100% organic” on your food, remember just a few things.


  1. Although organic foods tend to be environmentally friendly, there is no conclusive evidence to support it is healthier for you.
  2. Natural and organic cannot be used interchangeably. Natural refers to the lack of human intervention, where organic refers to the lack of environmental damage caused by the production / harvest of an item.
  3. Raw does not mean plain or unflavored, it simply means uncooked. Don’t forget to double-check your “raw” cashews for added salt.

See also: What’s on the Nutrition Label?


Thanks for reading!





United States Department of Agriculture: National Agricultural Library. Organic Production/Organic Food: Information Access Tools, April 2016. Accessed October 12, 2016.

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part 101, February, 2016. Accessed October 12, 2016.

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