Do you read the labels of the foods you buy? Have you noticed the words “natural flavor” in the “Ingredients”? A friend sent me a text stating that “natural flavors” were not natural.
And so, naturally, I started reading the labels of things like my protein powder to see if “natural flavors” were included. They were! Then I went online to see what I could find out and read several articles. Here are excerpts from two of the best:
(1) “Natural Flavors Should You Eat Them?”
Written by Franziska Spritzler
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations, natural flavors are created from substances extracted from these plant or animal sources (1):
- fruit or fruit juice
- vegetables or vegetable juice
- edible yeast, herbs, bark, buds, root leaves, or plant material
- dairy products, including fermented products
- meat, poultry, or seafood
What does ‘natural’ actually mean?
In the case of a natural flavor, the original source must be a plant or animal. By contrast, the original source of an artificial flavor is a synthetic chemical (5).
Importantly, all flavors contain chemicals, whether they are natural or artificial. In fact, every substance in the world, including water, is composed of chemicals.
Natural flavors are complex mixtures created by specially trained food chemists known as flavorists.
However, members of the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA), a trade group that evaluates the safety of flavor additives in the United States, have been criticized by nutrition experts and public interest groups for not disclosing safety data on natural flavors.
Should you consume natural flavors?
The original source of natural flavors must be plant or animal material. However, natural flavors can be highly processed and contain many chemical additives.
In fact, in some cases natural flavors aren’t much different from artificial flavors in terms of chemical composition and health effects.
From a health and safety standpoint, try to focus on choosing fresh or frozen whole foods whenever possible.
Ingredients classified as natural flavors
There are hundreds of natural flavors created by food chemists. Here are a few that are commonly found in foods and beverages:
- Amyl acetate. This compound can be distilled from bananas in order to provide banana-like flavor in baked goods.
- Citral. Also known as geranial, citral is extracted from lemongrass, lemon, orange, and pimento. It is used in citrus-flavored beverages and sweets.
- Benzaldehyde. This chemical is extracted from almonds, cinnamon oil, and other ingredients. It is frequently used to give foods an almond flavor and aroma.
- Castoreum. A somewhat surprising and unsettling source, this slightly sweet substance is found in the anal secretions of beavers. It is sometimes used as a substitute for vanilla, although this is rare due to its high cost.
Other natural flavors include:
- Linden ether: honey flavor
- Massoia lactone: coconut flavor
- Acetoin: butter flavor
All these flavors can also be produced using lab-created chemicals, in which case they would be listed as artificial flavors.
You may also have noticed that most of the time, ingredients labels indicate that the food is made with natural and artificial flavors.
Should you choose natural flavors over artificial flavors?
It may seem healthier to choose foods that contain natural flavors and avoid those with artificial flavors.
However, in terms of chemical composition, the two are remarkably similar. The chemicals in a particular flavor may be naturally derived or synthetic.
In fact, artificial flavors sometimes contain fewer chemicals than natural flavors.
In addition, some advocacy groups, such as the American Council on Science and Health, have argued that artificial flavors are actually safer because they are produced under tightly controlled laboratory conditions.
Artificial flavors are also less expensive to produce, which makes them more appealing to food manufacturers.
In addition, people who are vegetarian or vegan may unknowingly be ingesting animal-derived natural flavors in processed foods.
Overall, natural flavors don’t appear to be any healthier than artificial flavors.
(2) “Why Most Plant Based Protein Powder Brands Are BAD for Your Health”
by Scott Price
1. How many grams of sugar do you see?
Sugar is sugar. It all turns to fat in your body. Doesn’t matter if it’s from honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts (although I do enjoy raw honey in moderation).
2. Which artificial sweeteners do they use instead of real sugar?
A “clean” plant protein should definitely not contain chemical sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose anymore. But protein manufacturers are notorious for sneaking so-called “all-natural” sweeteners that may not be so good for you into their products. Here are a few to be wary of:
Avoid these so-called “natural” sweeteners.
- Xylitol is a cheap, processed “sugar alcohol” that can cause serious gut imbalances.
- Monk fruit (luo han guo) is a popular sweetener many protein powder companies use. It’s commonly made using ethanol chemical resins and often contains GMO fillers. Organic monkfruit extract that doesn’t contain extra fillers is a good sugar-free sweetener (the taste can be extremely bitter when companies use too much though, which is often the case).
- Stevia. The stevia most protein companies use is chemically-derived and loaded with fillers. Organic stevia leaf extract is the cleanest … you just need to find out how it was processed (no bleaching!) and whether or not it has excipients (ask the manufacturer!).
Bottom line: The best plant based protein blends use organic, real food ingredients and all-natural (or no) sweeteners … not GMO fillers and junk.
And again, 1 gram of total sugar should be your limit per serving.
3. What other highly-processed ingredients (flavors, gums, fillers, etc.) do they add?
Here are a few ingredients you’ll find in the majority of the so-called healthiest protein powders:
- Natural flavors. Up to 90 percent of “natural” flavors have chemical solvents and preservatives. If you see them on the ingredients list, make sure you ask the manufacturer how they’re made and what’s in them.
- Gums. Many so-called clean plant protein powders contain gums like carrageenan, guar, xanthan, locust bean, konjac, and acacia. Gums make vegetable protein products easier to mix and blend … but there are some reasons for concern with some of them. Many people report gut issues and certain gums have been shown in clinical studies to produce laxative effects, gas, and bloating. I recommend people with sensitive guts and GI issues avoid protein powders that have gums.
- Lecithins. The most common way to make lecithins involves using a petroleum-based neurotoxin called hexane. Avoid powders with this cheap soy- and sunflower-based filler … or at the very least make sure it’s organic if your powder has it.
Coming up Next:
Companies called about “Natural Flavors”
Till next time, Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows.~Tzaddi
Thanks for this. It’s very informative and I’ve saved it for future references.
Thank you, Daphne. I found it interesting as well. Next week I will report on the results of contacting companies whose product ingredients include “Natural Flavors”.