What Are Natural Flavors?

If you saw ‘Natural Flavors’ listed on an ingredient label what would you think? Doesn’t sound so bad, right? How could anything labeled ‘natural’ be bad for you?

According to the FDA, "The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."

Wait, what? That definition alone should turn anyone off. Did you know that natural flavors may contain 50-100 ingredients and are the fourth most common ingredient on food labels today? They are added to replace something that is lost through processing, to make food more appealing and to provide a consistent taste any time of the year. One example is orange juice. Yes, there is technically orange flavoring added to orange juice. Have you heard of castoreum? It’s the strawberry and vanilla flavoring that comes from a beaver’s anal glands. Yes, you read that right! But that won’t be on the label. The only thing you will see is simply, natural flavors. What’s even more interesting is that research has shown that both natural and artificial flavors have basically the same chemical makeup, with any differences being very small. But I bet you would be more likely to purchase something that says natural rather than artificial, right? As we are learning, that word in this case, really means nothing.

What these flavors do is make you consume things you normally wouldn’t. For example, soda without flavor is just sugar and carbonated water. It doesn’t taste good. The flavors make it taste better but do not provide any nutritional value, whatsoever. These flavors are designed to make you want more and can even be classified as addictive. ‘Natural Flavors’ are of course found in processed foods. And as we know, processed food consumption can lead to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, and a lot of other health problems. Also, these flavors can legally contain bi-products like MSG. These are excitotoxins, which may be associated with stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, among others. This is why GOLO recommends staying away anything that contains natural flavors. The fact of the matter is, you will NEVER know exactly what is making up those flavors. Remember to always stick to real, whole foods!

GOLO® is committed to providing you with the helpful tips and resources needed for personal success on a lifelong journey of health and wellness. It’s time to become #YourBestYou.


CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (fda.gov)

Is 'Natural Flavor' Healthier Than 'Artificial Flavor'? : The Salt : NPR

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