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The term “natural” gets thrown around a lot these days. Pizza chains and other fast-food restaurants are starting to pitch items made with natural ingredients. But this term is somewhat ambiguous because most people don’t fully understand what it means to be natural. I’ll attempt to get to the bottom of the issue, although, much of the information out there about natural foods is vague, meaning it’s left up to consumers to read between the lines.

1) It’s Natural, Huh?

It’s important to remember that there is a lot of interpretation related to the usage of the term natural, causing much consumer confusion. Since there are stringent government guidelines for organic foods but no such mandated rules for natural food items (not yet, anyway), the door gets left open for ranchers, food companies, and restaurants to fudge the truth. In other words, it pays to be discerning about the food you eat. Don’t just take that something is natural at face value, or you could be greatly disappointed when the truth is revealed.

2) Natural Means Natural

As a general rule of thumb, foodstuffs that are given the natural stamp should be as close to their natural form as possible. So, additives, food coloring, and preservatives are a no-no. But that doesn’t mean that antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, and potentially harmful fertilizers were not used in the process of producing your food. It helps to be a good investigator when it comes to what goes into your body. A simple Google search can provide the basic information on certain products, but beware the Internet labyrinth of information-overload. You might end up even more confused.

3) Wow! Natural Food Is Expensive

It’s ironic that natural food, supposedly void of heavy processing, is more expensive than regular food. Aren’t these companies saving a ton of money by not having to buy all those nasty chemicals? And shouldn’t they be passing the savings along to the consumer? You would think so. Consumers generally pay through the nose (yes, you can get all-natural nasal mist, too) for trendy food items and other hip merchandise. That’s exactly why it’s so expensive, because everybody wants it and these big companies are taking advantage of this fact.

4) It’s Healthy, Right?

Some medical studies suggest that people who eat an organic diet (rich in vitamins and antioxidants) are less likely to get certain kinds of cancer and other diseases, yet the jury is still out for those who primarily eat natural food items. Of course, most doctors will tell you that eating food free of additives, preservatives, and food coloring is undoubtedly better for you. Let’s not forget that health is at the heart of this natural food craze. Most packaging for natural food products pitches the health benefits one can supposedly reap from eating the stuff, whether it’s verifiable or not.

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