Warning: This will make you want to eat organic. In order to increase production and decrease the costs of food, corporations add chemicals that could harm us. A good rule to follow: If you can’t pronounce something on a food label, you might not want to put it in your body.
Do you really know how much sugar you consume? Do you know what your max sugar intake should be? Though it varies from person to person, the American Heart Association suggests that the average adult consume no more than 26 grams of sugar a day. But don’t mistake that as a daily recommended value, you should shoot to stay far under that. However, if you neglect to read labels carefully, you might be well over the maximum. Taking the time to read labels and understand where the sugars are coming from is crucial to avoiding too much sugar in your diet. Furthermore, not all sugars are the same. Sugar naturally occurring in a whole apple is far different than the sugar in apple juice, and that is because the whole fruit is whole, and thus has fiber and pulp that makes the body digest the sugar differently. Understanding these differences is crucial to your health.
Sugar is hiding everywhere in the Western diet. The underlying factors to most chronic, lifestyle diseases are too much sugar and too little activity. However, educating yourself about the sugar in your diet is the first step to avoiding these deadly diseases. Companies do not make it easier though. Labels proclaiming “Low Fat” and “No Added Sugar” try to convince us of a product’s healthiness, yet rarely are they truthful. Plus, nutrition labels are misleading: sugar is tabulated in grams, ingredient lists are complex, and sugar has lots different names, yet all effect your body the same way–negatively. But all of this is avoidable by gaining some knowledge and putting forth some effort to be a more conscious consumer.
The American Heart Association has a great overview of how to discern sugars on food labels and convert from grams of sugar to teaspoons of sugar:
Here is a great website that lists the different names of sugar and how common they are:
As more grocery stores move towards creating their own private labels, insisting on being “organic” without the green and white USDA label, how can we know the certainty of these advertisements? Target’s private organic label is Simply Balanced; Kroger’s is Simple Truth; Safeway’s brand is “O” Organics; Whole foods private label is called 365 Organics. These grocery stores pay private agents to certify their food organic; however, at this point, are we trusting the word “organic,” or do we trust which store is using this term? Does this become a brand game, where we trust one store’s credibility over another? Is Whole Foods more trust worthy than Kroger?
Some health stores, like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, advertise items “made with organic ingredients,” and because some customers assume everything in these stores is organic, they fail to further investigate the labels. Most labels that say, “made with organic ingredients” actually contain only about seventy percent organic material. The ubiquitous green and white USDA sticker only certifies ninety-five percent of the product organically produced; a label that says one hundred percent organic is truly “organic.” Perhaps this is why so many people are now going local: to avoid the ambiguity of corporate advertising and grocery store labeling.
More and more farmers markets are opening up because of the demand for local, fresh, organic produce. Our society is waking up, and realizing that labels and advertisements are mainly just marketing tricks, beguiling us into buying a product that isn’t really what it says it is. Sadly, most of us are buying lies on a daily basis. Phrases such as, “Made with natural ingredients,” “No preservatives,” “No artificial flavorings,” should not be taken too seriously. Further investigation needs to take place. Unfortunately, questions regarding the authenticity of a product cannot be directly asked to the product’s maker.
At a farmer’s market, these types of direct questions are happening constantly. You can meet your produce suppliers. You can look into the eyes of the person who is growing and supplying your food. You can buy things that you have more certainty of. You can ask these people questions about how these things are treated: Are they sprayed, fertilized, do they use pesticides, herbicides, and are their seeds non-GMO? This way of buying is much more intentional. Sure, it might mean more time waiting in a line and dealing with crowds. Sure, you might actually have to look someone in the eye and greet him or her.
It isn’t as easy as dumping items onto a conveyer belt and handing over your credit card. Visiting your local farmer’s market will ensure your investment in ethically produced, mostly organic, foods. Many farmers may not advertise their products as “organic,” and this is because of the difficulty small farms face to get USDA certified. It is much easier for large agribusinesses to be certified because to the government they are more important.
If a farmer at your local farmer’s market does advertise “organic,” you are allowed, by law, to see their organic certification documents, which they are required to have on them if showing such advertisements. Feel free to ask to see the farmer’s documents, or ask them questions regarding their growing process. Most are glad to divulge this information, as they like to meet those they are feeding.
Eating local foods are good for the individual buying, for the farmer, and for one’s community. Local food doesn’t travel hundreds of miles to reach you, doesn’t need to be preserved or treated. There is much less storage and transportation involved, and thus, less carbon emissions from gas. The benefits of local food systems are linked: better land usage (less monoculture), less harm to environment, more collaboration and communication, etc. To avoid hesitations and ambiguity in the super market, visit your local farmer’s market to meet farmers themselves, and for essentials in the grocery store, read the labels very carefully.
Organic food products are increasingly popular, and are one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy. Thus, it isn’t surprising that some of the leading food corporations are buying out many famous organic brand named items. Corporate agriculture is sleeping with the USDA; they keep each other happy and paid, and gladly work together in promoting more efficient, larger food production yields.
I used to get a small satisfaction in making a conscious effort to buy organic foods; however, I have come to realize I am buying from the brands I was aiming to boycott: Nestle, Kellogg, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, M&M Mars, General Mills, Heinz, etc. I was completely ignorant to the fact that I was perpetuating the corporate control of these money hogs. Somewhere, in the smallest print possible, these massive corporations’ names must have been hiding.
I resent the lack of transparency; the credibility of these brands is significantly lowered in my opinion. One of the organic industry’s lobby groups, the Organic Trade Association (OTA), gets most of its funding from giant agribusinesses, as they work to undermine the reliability of the organic trade movement. The OTA is supposed to be working for safe foods advocacy and ethical consumerism, yet many of the board members are also heads or leading members of food corporations. Also run by many corporate businessmen, the USDA’s leading members are executives of Monsanto (see the below Venn Diagram).
Most of the funding of the OTA, and a large percentage of members of both the OTA and the UDSA, are from giant corporate agribusinesses. Again, I want reiterate the inseparable, symbiotic relationship between large food corporations and our government agencies. With the majority of funds stemming from large agriculture businesses, government food agencies need to keep the corporate franchises happy. Thus, the wants and needs of large agribusinesses are thrust into our government food regulations.
At all costs these corporations grow larger, fulfilling their goals, while impacting the integrity of organic labels. In lowering the standards for organic certifications, they risk the health of citizens and lose credibility. Plenty of exploitation exists on the Internet regarding the powerful agribusiness lobbyists’ influences on the USDA’s enforcement actions. I have decided to place my trust in small, local farms, instead of in the greedy hands of corporate persons. Let’s support the interest and well being of the consumer, instead of the capital and commercial interest of the corporate world.