As conscious health advocates, we know that staying away from artificial flavoring is an important step in leading a healthy lifestyle. But, what about natural flavoring? Natural flavor is found in everything from sauces, drinks to soups, salad dressings, unsalted butter and even organic yogurt. It appears to carry with it an almost healthy tone, but is it really healthy, and what exactly is it?
Definition of Natural Flavoring
Under the Code of Federal Regulations, natural flavor is, “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” OK, so what does that really mean?
How Something Natural Can be so Gross
It is important to understand that just because natural flavors come from something natural, does not necessarily make them healthy. For instance, strawberry flavor does not always come from strawberries or blueberry flavor from blueberries. Cystine is a natural conditioner used in dough that is made from duck feathers and human hair. Maltodextrin, made from genetically-modified corn and the main ingredient in some “all-natural” sweeteners like stevia, is also considered natural.
What about natural flavoring that is made from the anal secretions of beavers? Castoreum is a substance found in the castor sacs of both male and female beavers. This aromatic liquid is mixed with urine and used for territorial marking. It is also used by the food flavoring industry with regularity. In fact, an overwhelming majority of raspberry flavored foods are made from these secretions. Foods such as ice cream, fruity drinks, yogurt, candy and tea may contain these secretions which the FDA claim are completely safe. What about the glaze used on donuts and hard candy? This is made from the feces of the female lac bug – for real.
Both artificial and natural flavorings are concocted in a labratory by blending a variety of ingredients together. According to Gary Reineccius, a food and science nutrition professor at the University of Minnesota, artificial flavorings are simpler, cheaper and easier to produce than natural flavorings, so foods that contain natural flavors are often more expensive. However, more expensive does not mean healthy or safe. Although they may make up less than 5% of the food ingredients, both artificial and natural flavorings are created to hijack the brain – to encourage us to want more and more and to become food “junkies”.
What About Organic?
So, you think you are safe if you buy all organic right? Think again….. the regulation for organic foods is that they have to be at least 95% organic. This leaves plenty of room for flavors of all kinds to sneak in, enter Mr. Beaver. The good news is that the Organic Trade Association has been investigating the possibility of producing organic flavors.
How to Avoid Flavorings
The only way to avoid flavorings all together is to stop eating boxed, packaged or canned foods. Think about ways to naturally flavor foods yourself such as by using real strawberries or real lemons. A diet rich in whole foods is the way to go if duck feathers and human hair are not on your top ten list of favorite foods. In addition, staying clear of packaged foods will keep the addiction monkeys off of your back and may save you a few pounds.
-The Alternative Daily