What Are “Natural Flavors”? You’re in for a Surprise!
By Tasha Rosales, Certified Nutritionist
Do you read food labels ? If so, you’ve likely seen the ingredient “natural flavors.” Seems healthy, right? Actually, in the US, natural flavors is a term that can include a number of very unnatural things.
Natural Flavors Defined
The term natural flavors is defined by the FDA as a substance extracted, distilled, or similarly derived from natural sources like plants (fruits, herbs, veggies, barks, roots) or animals (meat, dairy products, eggs). The flavor is extracted using a method of heating, with its main function being flavoring, not nutrition. Natural flavors have additional ingredients that consist of preservatives or stabilizers to make flavors work better. Unfortunately, these additions do not have to come from natural sources.
The FDA’s Approval
The FDA permits the use of additives when processing natural flavors. Food and beverage manufacturers are not required to disclose this on the label. So, the very ingredients you are trying to stay away from may be hidden in there too. These “secret ingredients” can cause more cravings, inflammation, and gut problems.
Who Should Avoid Natural Flavors
Vegans should steer clear of natural flavors that may come from animals. For instance, you might not expect that vanilla flavoring is often produced from a beaver’s castor sac. Gross! And, if you have food allergies, you might react to the unlisted ingredients. Some additives can trick your brain into eating more than you need. Plus, they can cause other problems like headaches, depression, anxiety, and stomach problems. You can contact the company to find out more about the label, but they may not tell you what you want to know. Ideally, everyone should try to avoid foods labeled with natural flavors.
Restrictions are Tightening
The good news is that food label restrictions have gotten tighter over the past few years. However, if a product was already allowed to use natural flavors as a catch-all phrase that includes these other additives, then the company doesn’t have to change the label.
The only real way to be sure your food and drinks are completely natural is to go right to the source. Consume fresh food that don’t contain any natural or artificial flavorings. Organic produce at your grocery store, farmer’s markets, growing your own food and doing meal prep at home are wonderful options!
A Meal Prep Service that Supports Healthy Ingredients
We don’t always have time to read labels or meal prep on our own. That’s why I love that a company like Foodom exists. Foodom is a website that allows customers to choose meals online. The website then selects a local chef to meal prep and cook in the customer’s home. You can ask the chef to make your dishes gluten-free, vegetarian, low sodium, or without additives like natural flavors. For an added fee, you can even request that the chef buys the food (and checks labels) for you and bring them when they come to meal prep!
Learn how Foodom works here.
About Tasha Rosales, Certified Nutritionist, Wellness Homemade
Wellness Homemade takes a new approach to providing health and wellness coaching that will leave you feeling stronger and healthier than ever. I meet you where you are and provide you with to manage your overall health.
Check out more information about healthy eating, meal prepping, and more at wellnesshomemade.org.