Organic, Gluten-Free, Vegan: Which One's Healthiest?
Hello and welcome to the nutrition diva podcast I'm your host? Monica. Ryan Eagle. I've got a series of questions from listeners lately, and although the specific topics were quite different, they all have a common root, and that is confusion about what various food designations and certifications mean for example, royds question was about contaminants in protein powders. He wrote I was recently researching which protein powder to buy and to my shock, one of the brands I was looking at was rated worst in terms of contaminants, specifically lead and cadmium. This plant based protein was certified USDA. Organic clearly, this label means nothing since they do not test for heavy metal contaminants. Why do we place so much importance on the USDA organic label if it does not protect us from contaminants? Dennis on the other hand was surprised to find that certified Vegan. Products are often full of miscellaneous chemicals and artificial ingredients. He wrote I've come to the conclusion that if I want to eat nutritious meals, avoiding processed foods whether Vegan or not may be more important than seeking out certified vegan products. And Elaine's question had to do with weight loss. She wrote I've already cut gluten and dairy out of my diet. I'm not sure what else. I can do to lose weight. Now in each case I think there's some confusion about what various labels such as organic Vegan or gluten free do and don't mean for your health nutrition. Certified Organic for example does not mean free of chemicals. It also doesn't mean more nutritious or healthier. It means that no synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers were added to the crops or the soils. nother reason that organic products can contain heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and arsenic is that these minerals are naturally occurring in the environment, even though they're not added through fertilizers or pesticides, they exist in the soil and the reason that Vegan protein powders are often higher in heavy metals, then way or egg-based protein powders is that plants tend to absorb these medals from the soil. They're grown in. Similarly, the designation Vegan does not mean healthier or more, nutritious or even more natural. It only means that no animal products are used as defense out a lot of the certified Vegan foods that you'll find on the shelves. These days are highly processed junk food. And furthermore eliminating gluten or dairy from your diet does not automatically lead to weight loss. Now Gluten containing foods like breads, cookies, crackers, pastas, and other flour based foods can contribute a lot of calories to your diet without a whole lot of nutrition and cutting down on flour based foods is actually not a bad strategy for losing weight, but not if you simply replace them all with gluten, free versions of the same things, because it's not the gluten per se, that's the problem gluten. Free products are often lower in fiber and higher in sugar and calories than they're gluten. Containing counterparts. In fact, people who adopt a gluten free diet for medical reasons often end up gaining weight. Because, we played a certain value on something being organic Vegan, local, sustainable or gluten free. These designations often enjoy a bit of a health halo. If we perceive them as being better for us in one aspect, we tend to think of them as being better in every dimension, but this is not at all the case certifications such as organic Vegan or gluten. Free mean only what they say, Vegan does not mean organic organic does not mean healthy local does not mean small. And because they encompass such a diversity of priorities, it's impossible to objectively rank them from best to worse or to use any one of these designations as a proxy for overall merit. On the other hand, doing exhaustive research and suppliers or pouring over the ingredient list for every food you buy is probably not realistic, so you may be able to use one or more of these designations as a shortcut to identify or weed out products that do or don't fit your criteria.