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Are You Fooling Yourself Fat?


I'm 100% in support of organics. I truly believe that organic food is better - not just for the planet but also for your health. But there is an organic myth. A new study found that the term 'organic' on a food package could lead consumers to overeat or even exercise less.


The researchers conducted two experiments. In the first they asked 114 college students to read nutrition labels on cookies. One was simply labeled 'cookies' while the other said 'cookies made with organic flour and sugar' - but both were clearly marked as containing 160 calories. When the students were asked about calories and whether one variety should be eaten more or less often than other the ones tagged 'organic' were perceived to have fewer calories. The participants also said the organic goodies could be eaten more often than the non-organic ones.


In a second study, 215 college students read about a character who wanted to lose weight, but also wanted to skip her post-dinner workout. They were told that she had chosen either a) an organic dessert b) a non-organic dessert, or c) no dessert. The participants were more likely to OK the character's choice to ditch the workout when she had an organic dessert - even more so than when she had no dessert at all.


I think this is an awesome study but it doesn't surprise me. Throughout my career I've seen that any food or term that earns a health halo is generally viewed as 'free.' When I first started out as a nutritionist fat was public enemy #1. My clients avoided it at all costs and gobbled down boxes of 'fat free' cookies and candy. When I would explain that that was why they were not losing (or even gaining) weight it was somewhat of a shocker.


I'm beyond thrilled that organics are exploding in popularity, but there are two important things to keep in mind:


1) If you eat any food your body can't burn or use, the excess will get diverted straight to your fat cells - even organic fruits and veggies!


2) Some foods made with organic ingredients are still basically junk food. Read the ingredient list - believe it or not there IS such a thing as organic high fructose corn syrup. You're much better off with whole organic foods like fruit, nuts and dark chocolate versus an organic processed cookie or sugary drink, but bottom line, see #1!  


So, have you been tricked by the term organic or do other words on food labels (like sugar free or natural) make you feel like you can get away with eating extra? Please share your thoughts!  

photo: iband

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