MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - We've all seen the labels at the grocery store. There's natural, organic, gluten-free, etc. So which labels really mean something? And do they represent the best choice? The 12 News Defenders are looking out for your health AND your wallet.
When many people go grocery shopping, price is the bottom line. But for others, product purity is important.
"The things they put on products, the pesticides. That's a big concern," one Montgomery shopper told us.
ORGANIC VS. NON-ORGANIC
With organic foods, you avoid those pesticides. But you also pay higher prices. So when is organic worth the cost? We went shopping with Alabama department of public health nutritionist Miriam Gaines to find out.
When it comes to produce, Gaines says to look at the skin.
"When you think about produce and something like an apple, you think about how the skin is so thin. So the pesticide can actually go into the apple," she explained.
That goes for tomatoes and leafy green vegetables too.
"But when you're talking about a produce with thick skin and you typically peal the skin, then this would be a produce that you would not normally need to be organic," Gaines said.
That goes for citrus fruits, pineapples, bananas, etc.
In the meat department, it again depends on what you're buying. Gaines says a high-fat meat will have more pesticide because the pesticide is stored in the fat.
As for dairy, experts say consider how much of it you'll be eating or drinking.
"For a child who would be drinking a lot of milk, it's probably wise to consider organic," Gaines said.
If and when you do go organic, make sure you're getting the real deal. Always look for the USDA-Organic local. That way, you know you're getting what you're paying for.
When it comes to organic packaged foods like cereal, they are almost never worth the price since they already go through so much processing.
It's also worth pointing out that organic foods have the same nutrition content as their non-organic counterparts. We looked at organic Quaker oatmeal, for example. It had the same number of calories and fat grams as the regular version.
"Nutritionally speaking, an apple is an apple, is an apple," said Gaines.
WEB EXTRA: Stanford University Study says organic food no more nutritious
GLUTEN VS. GLUTEN-FREE
Another buzz word these days is 'gluten-free.' But it's also rarely worth the cost UNLESS you have a medical condition.
Gluten is a protein in wheat. So, if after eating wheat, you have digestion problems, an itchy rash or canker sores, or feelings of irritability and/or fatigue, check with your doctor. You may have Celiac disease. If so, a gluten-free diet would be wise.
Another rule of thumb is to simply eat what makes you feel best. There is very little research about gluten. And it's believed some people may be sensitive to gluten even if they don't have Celiac disease.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is your health. Foods that are organic or gluten-free can be helpful for some, but for most, they are not essential to an overall healthy diet.
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