If you check the ingredients list of almost any processed food you’ll find a mysterious entry: natural flavors. This wholesome-sounding phrase conceals a not-so-wholesome reality.
Today, we’ll delve deeper into this prevalent ingredient, exploring its nature, origin, and its effects on your wellness and bones.
What Are Natural Flavors?
The Environmental Working Group analyzed the ingredients of more than 80,000 foods and found “natural flavors” to be the fourth most common ingredient.1 The only three more common ingredients were salt, water, and sugar. However, unlike those, “natural flavors” is not a singular, naturally occurring substance.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration dictates that to qualify as “natural” a flavor must be created from substances extracted from these plant or animal sources:
- 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
While this may seem like a reasonable foundation, the extraction and processing of these compounds are far from natural.
Once extracted and isolated, these compounds are treated like any other chemical, often mixed with other extracted compounds. These mixtures can contain a whole lot of different chemicals in addition to the original extract, including preservatives, solvents, enhancers, and other chemical additives.1
To qualify as a “natural flavor” the substance must be created from an extract from a plant or animal source. However, the process of extraction and preparation may involve mixing hundreds of chemicals, including non-natural ones used to bind, preserve, and enhance the compound.
Why Are Natural Flavors Used?
All foods derive their taste and aroma, which are closely linked sensations, from naturally occurring chemicals within them. Scientists have isolated hundreds of these chemicals and discovered how to incorporate them into processed foods to add additional flavor.
One might assume that a compound extracted from, for instance, a carrot, would be used to impart carrot flavor to another product; however, this is frequently not the case. Chemicals are mixed to achieve different effects, and used in sometimes surprising ways. Famously, McDonald’s “beef flavoring” is derived from wheat and milk– with who knows what else mixed in along the way.
The use of natural flavors for highly processed fast food is a great example of why these not-so-natural flavors exist. Foods that are pre-prepared, low-quality, shipped long distances, picked under-ripe, or stored for long periods often lose flavor. To restore or enhance the flavor of foods, food scientists concoct added flavors.
Natural flavors are typically used to add flavor to foods that are pre-prepared, low-quality, shipped long distances, picked under-ripe, or stored for long periods of time. To create different flavors, scientists combine extracts from unexpected sources, like using wheat and milk extracts to create beef flavoring.
Natural Flavors Vs. Artificial Flavors
While artificial flavors serve the same function as natural flavors, they are not derived from natural sources for their base compounds. These flavors originate in the laboratory. However, the resulting chemicals are often exactly the same as the chemicals extracted from plant and animal sources for natural flavors.
For a food manufacturer, the difference between natural and artificial flavors comes down to cost and marketing. Although artificial flavors are more cost-effective to produce, many consumers are drawn to the appeal of “natural flavors” over artificial ones.
Ironically, because isolating, extracting, stabilizing, enhancing, and preserving natural flavors involves so many additional chemicals, artificial flavors often contain fewer chemical components than natural flavors. Up to 90% of a “natural flavor” may be the non-natural chemicals added during processing.
Artificial flavors originate in the laboratory. However, they are often chemically identical to “natural flavor” extracts. Artificial flavors are often chemically simpler than natural flavors, because of all the processing required to extract and combine chemicals from natural sources.
So-Called Natural Flavors Aren’t Bone Healthy
A food product containing “natural flavors” comprises a mysterious mix of chemicals, extracted through unspecified methods from unidentified sources.
This level of uncertainty, and the potential quantity of added chemicals, make “natural flavors” a bad bet for bone health.
Natural flavors don’t add any nutritional value, and because they introduce chemical additives, they tax your body’s filtration system and add to acidification.
Natural flavors don't add any nutritional value, but they do add unknown chemicals. These additives tax your body's filtration system and add to acidification, both of which can damage your bones and your health.
What This Means To You
Opt for whole foods that are inherently rich in flavor. Eat in-season local produce from a farmers market or natural grocery– you’ll be amazed by the flavor, and your body will be grateful for the nutritious sustenance.
Help your body flush unwanted chemicals and additives with the Osteoporosis Fresh Start Cleanse. The cleanse comes with a simple, clear road map that eliminates all guesswork, uniquely designed to promote bone health and protect kidney and liver function.
Compared to other cleanses, the Osteoporosis Fresh Start Cleanse is quick, easy, and less restrictive, but incredibly effective. By clearing toxins and chemicals, you'll look younger, sleep better, and accelerate the bone-building process.
Don’t allow your diet to hinder your bone-health objectives, particularly when it can be a powerful tool for creating good health and avoiding fractures.