Natural Flavor vs Artificial Flavor


Pick up any packaged, processed food, and there’s a decent chance that one of its listed ingredients will be “natural flavor.” The ingredient sounds better than “artificial flavor,” but what exactly does it mean?

All foods – and everything else around us – are made up of chemicals, whether they occur in nature or are made in a lab. That means everything we smell or taste is a response to a chemical. So, both natural and artificial flavors contain chemicals. The distinction between natural and artificial flavoring is the source of the chemicals.

Natural flavors are created from anything that can be eaten, like animals and vegetables, even if those edible things are processed in the lab to create flavorings.

Artificial flavors come from anything that is inedible, such as petroleum, that is processed to create chemicals of flavorings.

The synthetic chemicals in artificial flavors generally cost less to produce than finding natural sources of chemicals. They are also potentially safer because they have been rigorously tested and used.

Some natural flavors can be more dangerous than the artificial ones. Traces of cyanide can be found in almond flavor, or benzaldehyde, when derived from nature.

At the end of the day, natural and artificial flavors are not that much different. While chemists make natural flavors by extracting chemicals from natural ingredients, artificial flavors are made by creating the same chemicals synthetically.

The reason companies bother to use natural flavors rather than artificial flavors is simple: marketing. Consumers may believe products with natural flavors are healthier.

Bottom line, if you like something, and it gives you the flavoring you want, you should buy it. Don’t buy it because it says ‘natural flavor.’ Buy it because you like it.


Recipe of the Week:

Starches may sound like an out-of-favor food group, but would your holiday table be complete without potatoes, stuffing or bread? This recipe for Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes is a savory riff on the traditional Thanksgiving brown-sugar-pecan-topped casserole.

Quote of the Week:

“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.  The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has been before.”

–       Albert Einstein

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