Did you know, Natural Flavor is not always Healthier than Artificial?

Depending on my mood I  always have two books available to read  – one that’s scientific and the other a  mystery.  My science book was “The Dorrito Effect”.  Its main focus is how both artificial and NATURAL food flavors fool us into thinking we are getting certain nutrients that are NOT there. (Peggy)

Here’s a taste of what I gleaned from the book. (puns intended).

Flavor and nutrients have gone hand in hand (maybe hand in mouth?) since the beginning of time.  Both humans and animals developed  an amazing ability, through flavor, to know what to eat to get the nutrients bodies need.  A simple example is when we need potassium, bananas which are high in potassium look more appealing  or when depleted of iron we might crave red meat.  Dorritos are an example in the book as they were one of the first to heavily use artificial flavors.

Natural foods, have a lot of what is called secondary compounds and minerals.   With processed food we get more water and carbs and fewer minerals. What the flavor industry does is mimic flavor, say strawberry, without using strawberries.    Strawberry ice cream is tasty but most doesn’t contain the secondary compounds and minerals found in real strawberries.  Orange flavor might contain not only orange extract, but also extracts from bark and grass.

“Pick up any packaged, processed food, and there’s a decent chance that one of its listed ingredients will be “natural flavor.”  Anything labeled “natural” sounds good, particularly in contrast to “artificial flavor” but what exactly does “natural flavor” mean? 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines “natural flavor” as oils, resins or other extracts derived from natural sources like plants, meat or seafood. Processes like heating or fermentation are used to extract the flavor. The function of these products is flavoring, not adding any nutritional content.

Experts say that ultimately, natural and artificial flavors are not that different. While chemists make natural flavors by extracting chemicals from natural ingredients, artificial flavors are made by creating the same chemicals synthetically.

“The reason companies bother to label “natural” flavors rather than artificial flavors is simple: marketing.”

“Consumers may believe products with natural flavors are healthier, though they’re nutritionally no different from those with artificial flavors.”

“Nor are ingredients extracted from nature necessarily safer than something artificially made.” *

  • Many deadly toxins are produced in nature.

  • In some cases, natural flavors may have more detrimental environmental consequences than artificial flavors.  (Because natural flavors must come from resources in nature, they may involve more forest clear-cutting and carbon emissions from transport than flavors created from scratch in the lab.)

“If you like something, and it gives you the flavoring you want, you should buy it.  Don’t buy it because it says ‘natural flavor.’ Buy it because you like it.”*

*Gary Reineccius of the University of Minnesota. 




5 comments on “Did you know, Natural Flavor is not always Healthier than Artificial?

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