Natural flavors vs artificial flavors

Don’t you feel that you need to major in chemistry to shop at the grocery store nowadays? Most of the products there have a long ingredient list, and half of the words are almost impossible to pronounce. Then you also hear stories about food preservatives and artificial additions that are extremely hazardous to your health.

Seeing the phrase “natural flavors” on the ingredient list seems like a good sign. We all know that in this world full of chemicals, anything natural is good for you.

The interesting part is that food companies have also noticed that people like the word “natural” and started to use its good connotation against us consumers. The government has no regulation for the use of the word “natural.” Anything that was derived from originally natural things can be called natural. The products that have the word “natural” on their label or on the ingredient list are not always as “natural” as they seem.

Natural and artificial flavors have very different names, but I found out they are not that much different. Both types of flavors are derived from chemicals in laboratories. The difference is that the natural flavors are a mix of natural chemicals and artificial flavors obtained from synthetic chemicals. Natural chemicals are still chemicals. In fact, artificial flavoring might be even better for you, because chemicals used in these flavorings have passed safety tests.

Natural chemicals are also much harder to obtain. Manufactures have to spend more time and money to design natural flavors, which makes them more expensive. The products that include natural flavoring cost more than products that has artificial flavoring, but it does not necessarily mean that they are healthier or better.

So the next time you walk between isles at a grocery store, don’t be tricked by its “natural” label. Take your time to read the ingredients, and use the rule of thumb recommended by dieticians: “Avoid buying products if you cannot pronounce words in their ingredient list.”