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There is a paradigm shift happening. The detrimental effects of conventional agriculture and industrialization on human health and the planet are increasingly coming to light. Concerns about the environment, health, animal welfare, and future generations are causing more and more people to care about the ingredients in their food, where their food comes from, how it is grown and raised, and the impact that it has on health and the environment. Being well-informed about the food you are buying will help you make choices that promote health, well-being, and sustainability. On top of that, consumer purchasing decisions have the power to influence businesses, encouraging growth and driving change within industries.
How Does Being an Informed Consumer Make a Difference?
As consumers, it is truly up to us to do our due diligence and research the products and companies that we spend our money on. Businesses are driven by profits and consumers have power when deciding where to spend their money. We can – and should – choose to support and spend money on businesses and products that align with our principles and values. The idea is that if we create the demand for healthy, sustainable, environmentally friendly products, then businesses will adapt to meet those demands. Being an informed consumer and supporting businesses that align with your principles will help foster a positive impact.
How Do I Know if a Source is Credible?
With so much information out there, it can be hard to discern misleading information from the truth. Knowing how to evaluate information to determine its quality and credibility will be very helpful in making informed decisions. When you’re getting information from general online resources, ask yourself the W questions:
- Who: who runs the website? Are they a trustworthy source?
- What: what claims is the site making? Do they seem too good to be true?
- When: when was the information posted? Is it up to date?
- Where: where did the information come from? Is it based on scientific research?
- Why: why does the site exist? Are they trying to sell something?
Since anybody can put anything on the internet, it is always a good idea to look at published, scientific studies, however, you should still ask questions. Was the study published in a well-respected journal, was it peer reviewed or reviewed by an expert panel, who provided the funding, and are positive results overemphasized?
Consider the motivation behind everything you read. Who is funding that website or research? Do they have any bias or conflict of interest? For example, if you’re reading an article that says sugar isn’t that bad for you, and it is funded by an organization in the sugar industry, then it should be considered biased and not credible information.
How Can I Be More Informed About My Food Choices?
Learning how to research and evaluate information is the big first step that will make everything else easier to decipher. The following are additional tips on how to become a more informed food consumer.
- Learn about sourcing and production. Research where your food comes from and how it is produced, grown, and raised.
- Learn about the different certifications such as Fair Trade Certified, USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Certified Humane, and Certified Grass-fed.
- Understand the different nuances in food labels and how they are regulated. Grass-fed, pasture-raised, cage-free, and all-natural mean different things and some of these terms aren’t regulated.
- Follow reputable sources that cover topics related to food, nutrition, and agriculture.
- Ask businesses the hard questions and choose the ones that have transparency.
- Talk to your local farmers and ranchers.
- Consider viewpoints different than your own to expand your understanding.
- Learn about the impact of different food choices on animal welfare and the environment.
- Consult with holistic nutrition professionals who can provide personalized advice. If they inspire you and make you want to help other people, consider going to a holistic nutrition school for training. See the upcoming blog on the difference between holistic nutrition and dietetics.
Reputable Sources That Are Doing the Hard Work for You
All of this may seem overwhelming, but rest assured you don’t have to do it completely on your own. There are resources available to help you identify companies and products that prioritize health, sustainability, and the environment. One of these standout resources is the Cornucopia Institute. The Cornucopia Institute advocates for the safeguarding of organic standards in farming. Their mission is to uncover the truth behind organic food and advocate for an organic label that can be trusted. They provide consumer education on organic agriculture and food and try to make confusing, misleading information and propaganda from the industry more accessible to the average consumer. Here are more examples of reputable sources:
- Alliance for Natural Health – “the largest organization working to promote and protect natural approaches to regenerating health.”
- A Greener World – “A Greener World promotes verified farming practices and encourages food choices that deliver positive impacts for the environment, society and animals—whether farmed or wild. We advocate practical and positive solutions, centered on a range of trusted and transparent market-based certifications, to inspire people to spend their food dollars in ways that result in real change.”
- Organic Eye – “We monitor the increasingly corrupt relationship between corporate agribusiness and government regulators that has eroded the working definition of organics.”
- Environmental Working Group – “Since 1993, we’ve worked tirelessly to protect public health. Whether it’s spotlighting harmful industry standards, speaking out against outdated government legislation or empowering consumers with breakthrough education and research, we’re in this fight. And we’re not going anywhere.”
- Rodale Institute – “Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to growing the regenerative organic agriculture movement through rigorous research, farmer training, and education. Our groundbreaking science and direct farmer-support programs serve as a catalyst for change in farming and food production worldwide. “
- Organic Insider – “Organic Insider is a premium service that is 100% dedicated to not only delivering the industry’s most important and relevant information to its readers, but it also has a very clear agenda — to help move the industry forward while fiercely protecting the integrity of organic.”
- Organic Consumers Association – “To protect and advocate for consumers’ right to safe, healthful food and other consumer products, a just food and farming system and an environment rich in biodiversity and free of pollutants.”
Learn How to Be a Critical Thinker at Nutrition Therapy Institute!
Evaluating evidence and research is just one of the many skills students learn at Nutrition Therapy Institute. It is important to us that our students have all the information available to be able to make informed decisions about their health. We are privately owned and do not take any funding from outside sources. We recognize that everybody is different and that learning multiple viewpoints from a scientific standpoint will allow our students to be critical thinkers and form their own opinions.
Being well-informed is an ongoing process. Nutrition is an ever-evolving field with new research and information coming out frequently. Continue to learn, immerse yourself in the research, dig back the layers, and recognize that you might find things out that are unsettling and go against everything you’ve been told. And when you find the brands you can trust, write to them, thank them, and encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing. In the next part of this series, we will discuss how corporations influence food policy-making in the United States.
Want More? Listen to this PodTalk with Cornucopia’s Policy Director, Kestrel Burcham.
About the Author: Brittany Ferrer is a graduate of NTI’s Nutrition Therapist Master program. She has a passion for helping people optimize their health through nutrition. She believes in the healing power of herbs and loves foraging for and making her own herbal remedies.
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