Q.  I see the word “Natural” on so many products.  What does this mean?

A.  Natural somewhere!

Many breast cancer survivors develop an interest in how nutrition can help their overall health and are curious about nutritional terms like organic and natural.  Over the past several years the word “Natural” has become a common term on many food and beverage labels.  “Natural” Peanut butter, “natural” fruit flavor, “naturally” lite, and “made with “natural” ingredients.  Seeing the word “natural” on a food label leads consumers to believe that these foods are a better choice or even healthier for us than foods that lack the term. The simple truth is, the word “natural” is not a regulated term.  There is no formal definition of the word natural by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture.   With no regulations on the term, the food industry can label a food as being “natural” even if just one of its ingredients comes from a natural source.   So for instance, a product can be labeled “natural” and still be made with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, Yellow 6, Red 40 and so on, and we all know there is “nothing” natural about those ingredients.

The bottom line is ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to foods labeled as “Natural”.  Take such claims with a grain of salt.  Always read the ingredient list on the food label to help you determine how “natural” the product really is.  Until the term “natural” is better defined and regulated, aim for whole fruits and vegetables, minimally processed grains and healthy fats.