Thinking About Going Natural? Here's What You Need to Know

You’ve probably heard about “going natural” or eating more organically, possibly from a friend or neighbor. While the concept sounds like a good thing, have you really thought about what going natural means? Before you make a massive change to your lifestyle, you should know exactly what it means to go natural, and why it has the potential to improve your life.

There’s no clear standard for what counts as “natural” in the general sense, as it applies to your diet. For some people, that might mean sourcing organic foods, which are legally required to be 95 percent free of synthetic additives, and must not be processed with industrial solvents, genetic engineering, or irradiation. For others, that might mean an attempt to stay away from heavily processed foods.

Either way, going natural is about returning to a simpler, healthier diet, consisting of foods and drinks that you could find in nature—without the artificial ingredients and processes that the modern commercial food industry has concocted.

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The Benefits of Going Natural With Your Food

So what are the benefits of going natural with what you eat and drink?

Fewer pesticides. All-natural foods are grown without the use of commercial pesticides—or they might rely on natural alternatives. When pesticides are used on growing crops, there’s a chance that trace amounts could end up in your food for consumption, and even those trace amounts can lead to negative health consequences. For example, the common herbicide Roundup has been determined to be a carcinogen. There’s also some evidence to suggest that repeated exposure to pesticides is correlated with an increased rate of ADHD.

More antioxidants. A 2014 meta-review of studies concerning the composition and nutritional value of organically grown crops found that organic foods are likely to have higher levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are unique compounds in your body that eliminate free radicals—damage-causing compounds that emerge through a variety of natural and unnatural processes. If left unchecked, free radicals can cause cellular damage that increases your cancer risk and compromises your immune system. In short? Your natural diet will provide you with more antioxidants, which may play a role in keeping you healthier.

More omega-3 fatty acids. Your organically sourced, natural milk and meat products are going to come with up to 50 percent more omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are an important part of your daily diet, and are found in large quantities in your retinas and brain. They may be important to preventing the onset of dementia and other degenerative brain diseases, and may reduce your risk for certain types of cancer.

No synthetic hormones. In the commercial food industry, livestock is often supplemented with synthetic hormones, which foster faster, more reliable growth, and lead to higher yields. Unfortunately, those synthetic hormones can remain present in the meat harvested from that livestock, and can lead to an increased cancer risk in people consuming it. When you eat all-natural ingredients, you won’t have to worry about consuming those synthetic hormones secondhand.

Less antibiotic resistance. We’re facing a crisis of antibiotic resistance in the United States, thanks to the widespread over-prescription and overuse of antibiotics. One of the most egregious sources of overuse is in raising livestock; farmers often use high levels of antibiotics proactively to ensure their livestock doesn’t develop any bacterial infections from their close-quarters conditions. Going natural can help you reduce the impact of this practice, lowering antibiotic resistance overall.

Fewer artificial ingredients. Artificial ingredients can be useful in making foods last longer, look more attractive, or taste just right—but because they were created in a lab, we don’t always know how they affect the human body. That uncertainty can lead to unexpected consequences when consumed, especially if they’re consumed over an extended period of time, through multiple foods and beverages. These effects vary by ingredient, and many ingredients have contradictory studies that either confirm or deny their safety—but without a conclusive body of long-term research, it’s impossible to know for sure how they interact in the body.

Confidence. When you eat natural foods, you’ll have more confidence in your diet. For example, when you drink pure green pressed juice, you’ll see an ingredient list like this: “apple, cucumber, celery, romaine, zucchini, kale, spinach, lemon, ginger.” All these ingredients should be easily recognizable. You know what they are, you know where they come from, and you know what they’re going to do in your body. You don’t have to worry about what “sodium phosphate” is or how it’s working in your body, nor do you have to worry about how those colored dyes are going to break down. You can eat and drink with confidence.

Sustainability. Because eating naturally often forces you to shop at local farmer’s markets, and make a more concentrated effort to work with local agriculture, it can help you lead a more sustainable lifestyle. You’ll produce less waste, since you’ll be getting fruits and vegetables straight from the source, and you won’t be contributing to the emissions produced by long-distance shipping.

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Are There Downsides?

So are there any real downsides to living a natural lifestyle, and eating more natural foods?

Shelf life. For the most part, you’ll find that any natural or organic produce you buy will probably have a shorter shelf life than its chemically treated counterpart. There aren’t any pesticides, chemicals, or genetic modifications to help these crops last longer, so they might go bad in the span of a few days, rather than after a couple of weeks. That might mean more shopping trips, and smaller batches of purchases, as well as higher pressure to eat those batches quickly.

Cost. Depending on where you shop, it’s possible that organic foods will cost more than their conventional counterparts. Because crops can be grown more efficiently with artificial processes, farmers can afford to charge less for each item. Unfortunately, eating naturally will put a bigger burden on your monthly budget. Still, if you shop around for deals, you should be able to eat organically without a substantial increase in your grocery expenses.

Yield. You should also consider the fact that genetic modifications and other scientific advancements have been increasing yields for more than 20 years, providing more food more affordably to populations who might otherwise struggle with hunger. Resisting advancement for the sake of leading a natural lifestyle might impact our potential food development.

How to Start Going Natural

At this point, you might be wondering what it would take to start going natural. You don’t have to make a dramatic change all at once; in fact, you can start making a positive impact in your life by taking these simple, baby steps:

Pay attention to ingredients labels. The best thing you can do is start paying closer attention to the ingredients labels of the foods you purchase. As a rule of thumb, the shorter the ingredients list is, and the more comprehensible the list is, the better and more natural the product will be. For example, pure green’s “Wake Up Call” features just four ingredients: apple, lemon, ginger, and cayenne. These are all recognizable, and all come from natural sources. If you have difficulty pronouncing an ingredient, or aren’t sure why it’s in your ice cream, it should give you second thoughts about consuming it.

Incorporate more organic fruits and vegetables into your diet. Fruits and vegetables are unlikely to be processed, regardless of whether they come from conventional or organic sources. And if you purchase them from an organic farmer, you can rest assured that they won’t have been treated with pesticides or other harsh chemicals. Fruits and vegetables are highly versatile, meaning you can use them in a variety of smoothies and dishes, and you’ll likely notice your health substantially improving over time.

Get to know key brands and sellers. It’s also helpful to do research on the brands, stores, and farmers you’re purchasing from. Some brands are committed to bringing you the best-quality, least-modified, all-natural ingredients, while others will do whatever it takes to get their food produced as cheaply and as consistently as possible. Once you know a brand provides consistently high-quality products, you can rely on them for a greater share of your purchases—and stay confident that you’re giving your body more of what it truly needs.

Shop locally when you can. Though it’s not always possible to get everything you need in a local environment, you can reduce your environmental impact and ensure minimal processing by shopping at farmer’s markets, going to local stores, and possibly, growing crops yourself, in your own backyard. It’s hard to be more confident about the source of your ingredients than when you harvest them from your own backyard garden.

After a few weeks of adopting a more natural eating habit, you’ll probably start to feel better, physically and mentally. And if you like that improvement, you can take bigger steps, like cutting out all processed foods or avoiding artificial ingredients in more areas of your life.

For now, if you’re ready to get started with a more natural, healthier diet, start shopping pure green today. You can save $25 off your first order on any subscription with the offer code “25OFFPROMO.”

Taylor Rohwedder