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Natural Foods


Organic or Natural?

Difference between Organic and Natural Foods




Worldwide we have a clear indication of what is organic means. When it comes to Natural it is not clearly defined. Natural food can be called  “as it is food gifted by nature”.

“Natural foods” are often assumed to be foods that are minimally processed or do not contain any food additives, or do not contain particular additives such as hormones, antibioticssweetenersfood colors, or flavorings that were not originally in the food. The terms are variously used and misused on labels and in advertisements (Wikipedia)

With the increase in availability, affordability, choices of food and health awareness consumers  try to find out the “proper food” when they visit grocery stores. Consumers navigating grocery store aisles have many choices, and food labels are one way in which food manufacturers compete for attention. The label “all natural” or “100% natural” can be found on diverse food products ranging from peanut butter and cereal to “all natural” sodas, and may bring to mind images of wholesome, minimally processed foods.  Without a formal definition of what “natural” means it is often confusing what the label says. For instances foods containing natural flavors, sweeteners, or other plant-derived substances can be labeled natural. In addition, foods containing highly processed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can also be labeled “natural”, since the synthetic materials used to generate HFCS are not incorporated into the final product. A broadly accepted definition for Natural foods is “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed”.

Many people think that there is no difference between organic and natural foods and that both of them mean the same thing. And  it is incorrect. If you compare organic and natural from their origin point there is a difference between the two. Organic food refers to food items that are produced, manufactured and handled using organic means defined by certifying bodies of agencies (see organic food submenu for details about organic certifying agencies in India) Natural food, on the other hand, generally refers to food items that are not altered chemically or synthesized in any form. These are derived from plants and animals. Thus a natural food item is not necessarily organic and vice versa.  

Organic or Natural?

 “Why do some people prefer organic food and some people prefer natural food?” This is because some people have the belief that synthesizing or growing foods by altering their nature results  in some level of loss of its nutrients and beneficial properties. Therefore, they demand natural foods. Organic food fans, on the other hand, want their food to be free of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and preservatives, so they choose organic and grow organic.

Which is in demand? Apparently, the demand for organic food is more than natural food because organic food seals are guaranteed and monitored by the government. An act similar to the Organic Food Products Act is necessary for natural food products as well, but it has not occurred at this time in many countries including India.

Difference between Organic and Natural Foods:

This image below is curtsey of USDA (United State Department of Agriculture). Worldwide we have a clear indication of what is organic means. When it comes to Natural it is not clearly defined.

Organic vs Natural
Organic vs Natural

Organic Food: Organic food refers to items that are produced using organic means. Stringent standards for organic food production, handling and processing exist throughout the world.

Natural Food: Natural food items are minimally  synthesized. Stringent standards do not exist for natural food products in many parts of the world.

Certification Agencies

Organic food: Many countries have certification bodies. So also in India National Standards for Organic Production (NSOP) provides this service.

Natural food: The International Association of Natural Products Producers (IANPP) is trying to get the definitions for natural food into solid place. It should be noted that this association is not a certification body .

Food Labels

Organic food: Organic labels have legal implications. A manufacturer must follow the specified rules and regulations before using the organic label.

Natural food: Natural labels are normally used freely by manufacturers due to lack of adequate guidelines. Consumers must be careful when someone says “food is natural” or “natural food”.  Consider clarifying what it means or where the food has come from?

Food Demand

Organic food: There is considerably more for organic food than for natural food. Organic food is readily available all over the world and people buy it more every year.

Natural food: The demand for natural food is increasing, but not nearly as much as for organic food.

Health Benefits

Organic Food: There is no evidence to prove that organic food is healthier than non-organic food. People prefer organic food because they feel that it is safer than conventional food as chemicals are not used in its production. However, recent research on the health benefits of organic milk has boosted the spirits of organic food lovers. Recent research suggests that choosing organic food can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals.

Natural FoodPeople prefer natural food because they believe excessive processing of food items disturbs the implicit health benefits. Or interfering in the growth of foods results in depletion or alteration of nutrient contents of food. 

Food Price

Organic Food: It is priced higher than non-organic food.

Natural Food: It is priced higher than processed food.

Shelf Life

For processed foods: Processed foods that will have   “use-by” date and use the food by the recommended date. There are processed foods that are made with organic ingredients that contain preservatives, so they have a longer shelf life. (These cannot be labeled ‘organic’ or ‘100% organic’, but they may be labeled ‘Made with Organic Potatoes,’ etc.). There are processed foods made with conventional ingredients that do not contain preservatives, so they have a shorter shelf life. Many ‘all natural’ products fall into this category.”

Organic Food: The shelf life of organic food is more than that of natural food, meaning that you can store it safely for a longer duration.

Natural FoodSince it is minimally processed or not processed at all many food items which have a high water content have a subsequently short shelf life.


Organic food: Organic food is being sold in almost every major super market. There are even specialty stores selling organic food exclusively and one can purchase organic food online as well.

Natural food: Natural food is available at many stores that sell organic food. There are some specialty stores that sell natural food. Furthermore, many stores selling health food items also sell natural food products. It is a growing market.


1. Fresh is best: When grocery shopping buy mostly whole foods like fresh or minimally processed fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, nuts and seeds, eggs, and low-fat dairy. These foods are about as natural as it gets! When putting together a meal, try to fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, and cauliflower. Include small portions of lean meats or vegetarian protein as well. And make your carbs count by working in small portions of fresh fruit, starchy vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and beans, while limiting amounts of processed snack foods, sweets, and refined grains.

2. Learn what is Natural about the food and where it has come from? Read the label and understand what is natural about the product. Where the food has come from? Is it reliable. Internet gives lot of information on various products. Learn about the food that you are going to consume.

3. For health reasons:   Instead of looking for foods with the all-natural claim, look first at the nutrition facts label. If you have diabetes, make it a priority to look at the portion size and total carbohydrate. This will help you to decide about your food intake.

4. If you want to cut back on artificial ingredients then look into Ingredient list: If the list is long and contains a lot of terms you cannot pronounce, it probably has several artificial and synthetic ingredients in it.

Till we have a  stricter definition of “natural” consumers trying to make informed decisions should be wary of the “natural” food label and pay close attention to ingredient lists, or choose organic foods that have been produced through a closely regulated process.