Find Us on Facebook

Are Organic Snacks REALLY Healthy?

Are Organic Snacks Healthy

As parents, we want the best for our children – and that includes stocking the fridge and the pantry with the right meals and snacks. However, as functioning adults in the 21st century, we also know that there is barely enough time between work and life demands to create every meal from scratch. So, what are some things we tend to look for when searching for the best life-supporting nutrients for our offspring that would make our crunchy granola moms and dads proud?

We scan for words on packaging like ‘whole,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘organic.’ Organic, it’s like the new ‘reduced-fat.’ The word ‘organic’ is one of those buzz-words that makes you pay a little extra for the right to say, “it’s organic.” I mean think about it – how many times have you heard, “Would you like a (insert food)? They’re organic.” With a word like organic, you feel obligated to share with everyone just how much thought and consideration you put into your family’s health. For a moment, put down your righteous megaphone and stop being blinded by that “wholly” word – newsflash – just because you buy organic, doesn’t mean it is healthy. Despite your favorite organic fruit snacks or cereal bars having that magical word, they are still processed and still loaded with sugar. It’s important not to get distracted by the flashy words on the front on the box when purchasing healthful foods for your family.

What Does Organic Mean Anyway?

Good ol’ Wikipedia will tell you that organic food is food produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming. Organizations regulating organic products, such as the USDA, may restrict the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers in farming. In general, organic foods are also usually not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives.

For the most part, choosing organic produce and meats is often a better choice, but when you get into the processed foods like organic fruit snacks, chips, and candy, the benefits of having that buzzword on your box might not be worth the extra money. The source of sugar does not matter as much as the amount. Whether it’s raw honey, coconut palm sugar, or agave nectar from the heavens, they all add up to sugar. Sugar is broken down into fructose and glucose, and they all do the same – shoot your insulin and blood sugar levels sky high.

Children and teens are particularly at risk. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting total intake of discretionary calories, including both added sugars and fats, to 5% –15% per day. Yet children and adolescents in America obtain about 16% of their total caloric intake from added sugars alone.

A large study called SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth found that newly diagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes in children and teens increased by about 4.8 percent in each year of the study’s period between 2002 and 2012.

The reason for the increase is the drastic lifestyle changes in the past few decades. Kids are becoming more sedentary, gluing themselves to their electronics, and reaching for the readily available, no assembly required, processed, sugar-laden foods.

Organic or Not, Unprocessed Foods Are Always Best

The pros of organic food are that most are free from pesticides, antibiotics, and additives. They have less of an environmental impact, and nutritional value is usually higher. That being said, when it comes to fighting the overload of sugar that we see on a daily basis, organic snacks are just as jam-packed with sugar as traditional treats. The best defense against this bombardment of sugar intake is to look at the nutrition label on the box. The nutritional breakdown is something every parent should know how to read and interpret. I know, it’s plain and boring – but it’s just it’s the facts, and is there for your family’s benefit.

The healthiest snacks will always be unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. A good reminder is to think about how far processed is your food from its original state. Minimally processed, plant-based, whole foods are always best – whether conventional or organic. And remember, just because it says organic, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.

Dr. Jason Shumard is the owner of Integrative Wellness Center of San Diego, which he opened in 2005 with the desire to promote safe alternative treatment options to the community of San Diego.

Leave a Reply