If you aim to eat a healthy diet, then you probably take extra steps to avoid ingredients like food dyes, MSG, artificial flavors and preservatives. However, the term natural flavor, found on a wide variety packaged foods, typically doesn’t sound the alarm for most health-conscious consumers. After all, a natural flavor sounds like something natural, doesn’t it? Sadly, this is often not the case.
So if a natural flavor isn’t “natural” what the heck is it? A “natural flavor” is any type of flavor additive derived or altered from a natural plant or animal substance. Whereas “artificial flavors” are derived from petroleum products. They are both manufactured in labs to produce the same result: a flavor-enhancing additive that makes processed food taste better so we want to eat more (and buy more) of it. In other words: they make processed foods addictive. What’s even worse is the name “natural flavor” can be legally used as a smokescreen for all types of harmful ingredients.
MSG DISGUISED AS NATURAL FLAVOR?? YES!
One of the worst types of “natural flavors” on the market are naturally-occurring glutamate by-products—which is MSG!! These chemical by-products are excitotoxins, a type of harmful chemical which tricks our brain into overeating. Ever wonder why you can’t just eat one “all-natural” cheese puff?
But food addiction is just one consequence of unknowingly consuming excitotoxins. MSG evils are well known and the health impact is serious. It is hard to remove it from our brains where it particularly gravitates. Studies have proven that MSG can causes neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, obesity, chronic pain and inflammation, headaches and migraines, and even hamper neurological development in children.
"Flavor” in an ingredient list may actually be comprised of over 100 ingredients that can come from some surprising (and disgusting) sources. For example, you would expect that “natural apple flavor” is juice extracted from an apple. Unfortunately, that is wishful thinking as the apple flavor needs to be preserved and stabilized with chemical agents added to help it mix into the product such as propylene glycol, BHT, BHA, and polysorbate 80. Castoreum, a “natural flavor” that tastes like strawberry and vanilla, found in ice creams and other desserts, comes from the castor sac of beavers. What is a castor sac? Located on a beaver’s backside, this sac stores the spray they use to mark their territories and is usually mixed with anal gland secretions and urine. Another example, known as “isinglass” is often added to beer and wines and comes from the bladders of sturgeons. Since both of these substances come from nature (beavers and fish), they can be hidden under the label “natural flavor”.
Obviously the FDA is not protecting us and the tricky food manufacturers are forever looking for ways to hook us on more of their "junk" food. It falls upon each of us to become good label readers.