4 Things to Know About Artificial and Natural Flavors

Children eating artificial or natural foods

Many food labels list natural and artificial flavorings in the ingredients. People often believe that natural is better, but is this accurate? Both have chemicals. The difference is in whether they come from edible or inedible sources. Here are four things to know:

  1. Natural flavors – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires natural flavors be created from an edible source, such as vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, dairy, herbs and spices. Scientists, called flavorists, use derivatives of these products to create over 2,000 chemicals that make up 500 natural flavors. Interestingly, flavors may come from unexpected sources. For example, to create lemon flavoring, flavorists use the citral chemical found in lemon peel, lemongrass or lemon myrtle.

  2. Artificial flavors – Flavorists make artificial flavors by combining chemicals made from inedible ingredients, such as paper pulp or petroleum. Artificial flavors are made to smell and taste exactly like natural flavorings. They must pass stricter safety testing, too. But even so, organic purists believe that artificial flavors can cause a host of health problems.

  3. Flavor creations – Recreating real flavors can take time. Flavorists mix up 70 to 80 combinations of chemicals to get the exact smell and taste for natural and artificial flavorings. It really is a science.

  4. Nutrition – A common belief is that foods made with natural flavors are healthier than those containing artificial flavors. However, researchers at the University of Minnesota say there is no nutritional difference between natural and artificial flavorings. Instead people should watch the amount of sugar and unhealthy fats in the foods they eat.


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