What common food buzzwords actually mean

A worker cuts organic spinach during the fall harvest at Grant Family Farms on October 11, 2011 in Wellington, Colorado

If you're seeking ways to make your diet just a bit healthier, you've probably heard the classic argument that organic food is better for you, and that you shouldn't touch GMOs with a ten-foot-pole.  

But as New York Times columnist Mark Bittman argues, you're probably focusing on the wrong ideas.

"With 'organic,' I think the word is ill-defined," he says. "There's nothing wrong with the desire to eat organic food, but focusing on the word 'organic' as if it were a panacea is a problem. With GMOs, it's the opposite--there's nothing particularly good about them, but on the other hand, to be afraid of them is a way stronger reaction than necessary."

Bittman argues in his latest column that it's not about how the label describes the food we put in our diets.

"Eating organic food is maybe preferable--whether it's nutritionally superior is questionable--but it's a secondary consideration," he said. "The primary consideration is what's in your diet. It's not about whether you can afford to eat organic, it's about whether you can afford to eat better. And for 80 or 90 percent of the people in the United States, the answer to that is yes."

But Bittman, who supports going fully vegan before 6 p.m. in his new book, cautions against lumping "veganism" into the same "healthy" category.

"Veganism implies healthy, but you can eat Oreos and Coke and still be vegan," he said.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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