Pick up almost any food item at the grocery store and you are likely to see “natural” flavors” in the ingredient list. What does this mean? And are natural flavors better than artificial flavors? The short answer is no. There is currently no evidence-based research that suggests natural flavors are nutritionally different than artificial flavors. In fact, the term “natural flavors” is simply a marketing strategy in the food industry. Consumers are more likely to buy a food product with the word “natural” over “artificial” on the packaging without knowing the difference between the two.
Natural flavors are oils, resins and other extracts that are derived from sources such as plants. However, most extracts are taken from multiple sources. Chemicals that imitate the desired flavor can come from bark and grass. An artificial flavor uses chemicals to create the flavor synthetically. Developing flavors artificially is seen as the environmentally friendly option because it minimizes the use of nature’s resources.
Bottom Line: Natural flavors are not that different from artificial flavors. Don’t be persuaded to purchase an item just because it contains natural flavors.
Written By: Charlotte Walker, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern