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  • Writer's pictureNikki Ostrower (Nutritionist)

What Does ‘Natural’ Really Mean?

What Does ‘Natural’ Really Mean?

Words can be misleading. Especially when it comes to advertising processed foods as “healthy” or as “all natural” products.

I want to be sure to distinguish between what Natural actually means to me as a Nutritionist, vs. how it’s defined by the USDA and FDA.

· USDA definition- “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").”

· FDA definition- “Nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food”.

Because the terms “natural”, "all natural" or "100% natural" do not carry a standard definition from both the FDA and USDA, food marketers can use the terms as they deem fit. Source:

So “Natural” on a box, bagged, or bottled food product can be misleading, confusing, and doesn’t define whether it’s actually good for you or not.

Something that is truly “Natural” came from the earth and hasn’t been tampered with - both animal and plant products such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can fall into this category.

Natural means the item doesn’t even need a label because it’s one ingredient and you know what it is just looking at it! 100% natural means that it wasn’t fed unnatural things (as many of our animal products are), nor was it genetically modified, nor injected with hormones or antibiotics. It also means it wasn’t bleached, refined, or chemically altered.

Natural is as it sounds - consumed as nature intended. Read Dr. Gundry’s “Plant Paradox” and you’ll learn even more fascinating information about how plants signal to us if or when they are to be consumed!

Whether you are consuming something orally, or putting it topically on the skin, to me the rules are fairly similar. It’s so important to do research and know what is going on our skin and how “natural” it is because the skin absorbs everything we put onto it. Skin is the largest organ of the body.

Now unfortunately, it’s not a perfect rule nor a perfect science. I would never suggest to eat your toothpaste, your sunscreen, or your shampoo. (It’s great if it’s so natural that you could!) What I am saying is that when it comes to topicals, the closer you can get to truly natural recognizable ingredients, the better.

Just like your eye sees and recognizes certain things as real, whole foods, the body recognizes it too. If something is ingested that is foreign and the body believes could cause it harm, whether chemical or even natural allergens, it’s going to react and seek to purge it from your system immediately. Your body is highly intelligent and always looking to protect you!

That’s why if you get food poisoning or put something on your skin it doesn’t like, you’ll get a reaction right away to alert you.

The truth is, all truly 100% natural food and body products don’t work for everyone. That’s where I turn to Food Sensitivity, Mold, and Chemical testing so I truly know what my body is negatively responding to (both “Natural” substances and man-made). Allergy testing is different and useful as well.

Educating yourself on what words mean on your food and body products, cleaners, etc. and learning with time what works well for you both internally and on the surface of your skin is one of the best things you could do to prevent inflammation.

Do your best to crowd out chemicals, processed items, and ingredients you can’t pronounce with items that you can and that your body responds well to energetically. Eating and living in conjunction with “Nature’s Medicine” will help you feel your best

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