Lasting wellness doesn't come from studying definitions, but practising healthy lifestyle every day, and yet... We live in the world where some manufacturers watch every penny, endlessly diluting their formulas. Not being informed about what you consume can cost you your health. Exaggeration? Stunning food facts make headlines every day.
Did you know that "decaffeinated" coffee is not caffeine-free?
“Multigrain” bread doesn't equal wholegrain?
Natural isn't necessarily organic, and organic doesn't have to be natural.
In the United States, even GMO food can be labelled "natural". California’s Proposition 37 in 2012 fought for GMO labels on any genetically modified food, and upheld that a GMO product couldn't be labelled “natural.” The proposal was swiftly and strongly... rejected.
While this is unsettling, what matters to you as a consumer is knowing how UK regulations affect the names behind what's really being sold. And at Nutrimarket, we have your back.
Here's the overview of the most important definitions to help you understand what you buy and make informed decisions that will compliment your health.
What is organic?
According to the Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), 'organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives.'
Importantly, you can sleep soundly knowing that any products exposed to irradiation or containing genetically modified organisms are generally prohibited from being labeled as organic. Artificial colourings and sweeteners are banned, too.
For a composite product to be labelled organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must be derived from organically produced plants or animals. Organic foods must be certified through regular inspections. The gold standard of organic labelling comes from the Soil Association - look for this sign when shopping for national produce:
Should you choose organic products?
A growing body of data indicates that organic produce is richer in vitamins, minerals and omega-3s, though admittedly, sometimes the difference isn't overwhelming. A systematic review of organic fruit and vegetables' chemical makeup showed higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants and lower levels of heavy metals and pesticide residues.
DEFRA defines organic agriculture as a "systems approach to production that is working working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production." If you're a conscious consumer, supporting sustainable production practices, that alone is a good reasons to choose organic whenever possible.
What is natural?
In an ideal world, we shouldn't have to ask. In practice, labeling a product "natural" in the UK is strictly regulated.
Natural ingredients are defined as "produced by nature, not the work of man or
interfered with by man".
Any foods or ingredients that use chemicals to modify their composition or include additives and flavourings that are the product of the chemical industry or extracted by chemical processes don't qualify as natural.
What are whole foods?
Whole foods aren't regulated in the UK. The term "whole foods" applies to foods that unrefined and unprocessed or processed and refined as little as possible before consumption.
What are ayurvedic supplements?
Ayurvedic medicine originated in India more than 3,000 years ago, which makes it is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. Ayurveda promote using herbal compounds, special diets, and other practices.
Several ayurvedic plants which have been studied were found to offer tangible health benefits:
Ashwagandha, traditionally used as a nervine tonic, aphrodisiac, for adapting to stress. The plant is believed to act as an antioxidant, scavenge free radicals and support a healthy immune system, as suggested by Phytomedicine Journal.
Frankincense. Varieties of frankincense (Boswellia serrata, Boswellia carterii) shown anti-inflammatory and immune system properties in laboratory studies.
Shankhpushpi. A common Indian plant used as a nervine tonic to improve memory and cognitive function. Research suggests it can be used to calm the nerves due to its ability to regulate the production of the stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol. It is also believed to offer relief to sufferers of anxiety, mental fatigue, and insomnia.
Turmeric. Clinical trials showed that anti-inflammatory turmeric could help with arthritis and certain digestive disorders.
Ayurvedic supplements were created for those of us who aren't going to the Himalayas anytime soon. If you'd like to experience the benefits of thousands of years of Eastern wisdom, these trusted companies harvest pure, Indian herbs and create high-quality ayurvedic supplements that compliment a Western lifestyle.
What are superfoods?
Superfood is a term that remained unregulated in the UK until 2007, when EU legislation banned the label, unless accompanied by a precise authorised health claim that demonstrates why the product is beneficial for health. Overregulation? Maybe - a health food cafe was recently forced to rename its goodness-packed "Superfood Salad" to just "Super Salad".
Overall, superfood is a common term used to signal that a particular food is particularly nutrition-packed. You're generally safe to use it as an indicator that a food is rich in nutrients, however, you should be careful about relying on particular therapeutic properties to the consumed foods. If in doubt, refer to the NHS guide which analyses health properties of the most popular superfoods such as beets, blueberries, goji berries, green tea and more.