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Nutrition month pushes for healthy lifestyle

by Karen Kemper
Dietetic Intern
March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign sponsored by the American Dietetic Association to promote a healthy lifestyle. This year’s theme is “Nutrition from the Ground Up.” As we become more interested and concerned about knowing where and how our food is grown, it is no surprise that buying organic has become a growing trend. However, many of us are still unclear about what organic really means and if it is truly a better choice than conventionally-grown foods. 
What makes a food organic? Organic food standards are created and regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Organic produce is grown by accredited organic farmers who do not use typical pesticides or fertilizers that are petroleum or sewage sludge-based. Organically raised animals are fed only organic feed, are not given antibiotics or growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors. Genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge and the use of synthetic substances are prohibited in the production and handling of organic products.
Understanding organic food labeling will help you make an informed decision about which organic foods to buy. Organic products are labeled according to the percentage of organic ingredients they contain. If an item is labeled 100 percent organic, all ingredients are organic. Products labeled “organic” have at least 95 percent organic ingredients. The USDA Organic Seal can be used on products meeting these two standards. You may also see the phrase “made with organic ingredients” on some items. This means, at least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic. Any food made with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can only use the word organic to identify the particular ingredients it contains that were produced organically.
Organic foods are often promoted because of the lower pesticide residues and the increased nutritional value. While pesticide residues have indeed been shown lower in organic produce, superior nutrient content has not been confirmed. Studies conducted in Europe found very little difference in the nutrient content of organic versus conventional produce. Variations were dependent on a number of factors including growing conditions and season, soil, fertilizer use, and mineral content of the water. More research is needed in this area. Whether or not you chose to buy organic, remember to strive for a balanced, healthy diet by incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins into your day.
To learn more about organic, all-natural, and locally grown foods, join the dietetic interns for Wellness Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 3 in the lobby of Ashley River Tower and March 17 in the lobby of the Children’s Hospital. There will also be a seed sale benefiting Sodexo’s World Hunger Foundation. Bring a dollar to raise money for a good cause and grow your own nutrition, from the ground up.

Editor's note: The column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving to bring various topics and representing employee wellness organizations on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide employees with helpful information concerning all aspects of health.

Friday, Feb. 26, 2010

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.