There are so many health and nutritional terms that we hear on a regular basis, and honestly it is easily confusing. I'm going to try my best to make it all a little easier to understand. It is important to know where your food is coming from, how it is produced, and raised. It is actually true....you are what you eat. Whatever happens to that plant or animal, ultimately ends up in your body when you consume it. Understanding what these terms mean, helps you to make more informed decisions about your health and body.
Processed Foods - Unless it came from the ground or plant, or has a mother, it is processed. Processed foods are made in factories. They are loaded with all types of artificial ingredients for flavor, texture, and a long shelf life.
Natural - Existing in nature, not man made. This does not mean organic or that it isn't genetically modified in some way. This does not mean that there is a reduction in calories.
GMO's - Genetically Modified Organisms. An organism that has been genetically altered using engineering techniques. Plants and animals are altered by scientists to insert or omit genes in their DNA. Scientists developed techniques to create plants, animals, and bacteria that would never occur in nature.
Organic - Produce and other ingredients are grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, GMO's, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are not given growth hormone or antibiotics. This does not mean a reduction in calories.
Farm Raised - You will see this term used mostly with fish. These fish are commercially raised in tanks, pens, and other enclosures. They are fed corn meal, soy, genetically modified canola oil, and pellets of chicken feces. They are also given antibiotics, growth hormone, and chemicals to increase their size at a faster rate.
Wild Caught - Wild fish mostly feeds on natural sources. Wild fish have higher levels of Omega 3's, and they aren't crowded into disease infested pens. They typically have less fat also. One of the negatives of wild caught is that they may have higher counts of mercury. Some fish naturally have more mercury than others.
Cage Free - You will see this term used with chicken and eggs. Eggs from birds that are not raised in cages. They are kept in a floor system in a barn. The hens have bedding materials, perches, and nesting boxes to lay their eggs. Depending on the farm, they can still be in very close quarters, just not in cages. These hens have less stress, which means they are less likely to be infected with diseases, such as salmonella.
Free Range - This term is also applied to chickens and eggs. Eggs that are laid by hens who can go outside. They may travel in and out at free will or be let out for a portion of the day. Free Range eggs also have less stress, higher level of vitamins, and less fat and cholesterol.
Grass Fed - Cows by nature are able to digest different types of grass that grow in their pastures. These cows are most likely not given antibiotics and hormones, which makes them grow faster. If a cow is not grass fed, it lives on a commercial feedlot, where it is given a diet of corn, grains, and animal by product. They are typically given hormones and antibiotics, as well. This type of production means bigger cows at a faster rate. Farmers can quickly slaughter a full size cow. Producing more product and at a faster rate means more money.
Sustainable - Renewing resources at a rate equal to or greater than it is being consumed. Living within the resources of the planet, without damaging the environment.
Fat Free - I wanted to include this term, because over the years it has been very misunderstood. Unless a food is naturally fat free, it is altered by man. Typically when fat is taken out, sugar and/or sodium is added to keep the flavor as close as possible to a full fat product. There may be a reduction in fat and/or calories in these processed foods, but they are in no way healthier.
No Sugar Added - This does not mean that this product has no sugar. It means that during the process of making this processed food, additional sugar was not added.