Natural Vs Organic Food - What's the Difference?


Do you shop for organic foods?

  • I only buy organic foods, unless there is no other choice.
  • I try to buy organic foods when they are not too expensive.
  • I don't pay attention to whether or not foods are organic.
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You're trying to take care of our environment. You're trying to take care of your body. Chemicals and pesticides are bad for both your personal health, and the health of our planet. But when it comes to food, it can be tough to figure out what’s best.  Diet experts and green living enthusiasts toss around terms like “natural” and “organic,” but what exactly do they mean?  And which one is better, both for you and for Mother Earth?

Organic Vs Natural Foods

The basic difference between natural vs. organic foods is that one adheres to strict standards set forth by the government, and the other does not.


The USDA’s National Organic Standards Board defined the national standard for the term “organic” in the year 2000. According to these criteria, to be labeled organic, food must have been produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (with a few exceptions), antibiotics, irradiation, genetic engineering, or growth hormones.


“Natural,” on the other hand, is not a legally standardized term. Generally, the industry uses the word to imply that food does not contain preservatives, or that it is processed less than its non-“natural” counterparts. Be wary of these products–though some of them may be better for you than those that are not specified “natural,” they are not necessarily made from pesticide- or cruelty-free products, and unless labeled as such, are not organic.

The USDA Organic Seal

This seal appears on foods that are certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture.
This seal appears on foods that are certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Your best bet: buy organic. Not only can you be sure that the sources of your food are following rigid rules in regards to their techniques and facilities, but the food is simply better for you. In 2005, researchers found that almost 30% of organic foods contained no detectable pesticides, another 30% contained only 1 pesticide, and a little over 40% contained more than one. One day, the USDA may also define a measure of what exactly constitutes a “natural” food. Until then, stick with products that have been evaluated against a given benchmark, and made the grade.

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Comments 22 comments

Amy Pearson 5 years ago

It is important to slow down and think about food as nourishment rather than just something to gulp down in between meetings or on the way to pick up the kids. Rather than worry about following a fad diet, think about your health and your lifestyle instead. Start by learning which foods are good for you.

Bronson_Hub profile image

Bronson_Hub 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA

"Your best bet: buy organic." Best bet: buy from your local farmer's market. Always check where your food comes from because depending on the country, they might not allow USDA inspection of the farms that harvest it. Case & point - China. Whole Foods' 365 label carried a ginger product for a brief time. Problem is, China will not allow anyone to inspect their farms lest you want to start WW3 with them. So when they say it's organic, we have to take their word for it. Plus, we get their stuff cheap (why else would Whole Foods go through all that trouble?) Long story short: the "organic" stuff from china was something like 20 times more toxic than non-organic american ginger so Whole Foods took it off the shelves. Always, always, always check the country your food comes from if you buy organic. The USDA will just stamp the label on it and because they can't inspect the farms of some countries, that label became meaningless, especially in the case with china where "organic" was significantly more toxic than american food that was not organic.

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 5 years ago from NY

Organic is great but not always better. I prefer to buy from local farmers I know, or grow my own. There are many small local farmer who practice organic farming but can't afford to be organic or bother with all the paper work and all the testing and regulations. I actually feel safer buying local grown greens at a farmers market then organic labeled ones in Walmart or any other large grocery store.

So, I think organic is great, and should not be avoided but not to dismiss locally grown and made products as well.

Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Good info. I'm sticking with Organic and ditching Natural!

dawnM profile image

dawnM 6 years ago from Camarillo, CA

great article I wrote one a few months back on green vs healthy interior design. Same concept but in the interior design field, many products that are labeled eco-friendly are not alway healthy. So spreading the word is wonderful.

jrcemail profile image

jrcemail 7 years ago

I look for that seal all the time. Pricey, but what can you do.

Newyork204 profile image

Newyork204 7 years ago from Anchorage, AK

Good article. I did not know that there was a difference between organic and natural. I thought they both meant the same thing.

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

This was definitely some information I needed to know when I was a head chef at a small summer camp. I had about 14 campers who vegetarians, 7 that were vegan and 1 camper who so allergic to most foods that had to be given his own food selected by his mother/doctor and the other 50 ate everything I made. It was nuts but I got through!

mawandano profile image

mawandano 7 years ago from Kampala,Uganda,East Africa

Yes organic is costly but that small increament is worth the additive volumes of pollutants saved from the environment over tiem were you to consume inorganic stuff.Its also much more soothing to your body

ReallyChattyKaty profile image

ReallyChattyKaty 7 years ago from The Free World

i never knew that there was even a diference

No1beautytips profile image

No1beautytips 7 years ago

thanks great hub, i thought naural and organic meant the same, very insightful stuff

Nelle Hoxie 7 years ago

In addition to buying and growing organic produce, we also use only green cleaning products. The only skincare and makeup products in the house have natural and/or organic ingredients.

Ms._Info profile image

Ms._Info 7 years ago from New Jersey

Thanks for the info. We've been trying to buy as much organic food as we can afford. We've even started buying organic skincare items such as lotions and shampoos.

lxxy profile image

lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

What are the exceptions to the rule? Do you know? Just wondering..

All natural..haha, as if to say there was any other kind. When have we created new materials to eat? ;D

RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

Thank you for clearing this up. I try to buy organic, but the cost of it for a family of five is way out there. As a result, we want to raise our own vegetables to help with cost and keep it organic.

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

When I was growing up, my dad began to experiment with chemical free farming. The first year, it was only the wheat he planned to keep back for the family. The next year he sprayed even less, and limited the cattle vaccinations to only what was required by law, to sell them, leaving our personal beef untainted. That was more than 20 years ago, and he is finally researching becoming certified organic. It has long been known, if you want the best, buy what the farmer raises for his own family!

ocbill profile image

ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

I'll take organic any day. That to me is natural. Why the FDA actually allows companies to use natural when it is "less processed" is outrageous. Always some fine print Isomehwere I have to uncover

Melody Lagrimas profile image

Melody Lagrimas 7 years ago from Philippines

Yes, organic products are best. I only wish they're affordable for most of us. Nice hub.

DynamicS profile image

DynamicS 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Thanks for the info. I always assumed that natural and organic foods were grown the same way. Now I am educated. Thanks

Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 7 years ago from USA

Good article and information; we bought some organic grown green tomatoes just last weekend. Fried (in olive oil) green tomatoes-----yummmmmmmmm!

Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

The best way to go is to grow your own where possible. Even apartment dwellers can usually find room for some.

Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I agree, organic is best, but darned the vegies are spendy. Bought some organic broccoli a few months ago, stuck it in the fridge in the bag from the store and an hour later is was all bugs.. ick

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