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Are natural foods always better?

I got interested in nutrition by working in health food stores where I gained access and knowledge of many foods that I hadn’t encountered at other stores.  Back then, there weren’t nearly as many choices or as much availability for these foods as there are now.  

Many of the foods that were only available in health food stores are now regularly carried by the local Super Walmarts and Targets.  I, for one, am thankful for this because it makes it easier for more people to shop and access healthier alternatives.

A common theme that I continue to hear from people who shop at specialty health food stores, such as Trader Joes and Whole Foods, is the assumption that everything you buy from a store such as these is a healthy choice.  

While I wish this were the case, I want to put it out there that this is not the truth.

Stores such as these may carry a wide variety of organic options, whole grain foods, and foods without preservatives and artificial ingredients.  While there are benefits to all of these options, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these foods will all be healthy in terms of the calories, fat, sugar and sodium content.  

Processed foods may still contain plenty of these things, just in a more “natural” form.  For example, a product may contain sea salt in place of monosodium glutamate, or cane sugar in place of high fructose corn syrup.  While some might argue that this is “better,” it does not make much difference in the final nutritional value of the product.

My advice to everyone, no matter where you shop, is to keep your foods as fresh as possible, limit packaged and processed foods, and ALWAYS look at food labels.

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