Years ago, I heard a rumor that seeing “natural flavors” on a food’s label could mean the juice from a beaver’s butt (I kid you not, and now I know this isn’t a rumor at all! Castoreum extract is a natural flavor that is used for a substitute for vanilla. It is extracted from the anal glands of beavers.). Anywho, I receive a lot of questions on nutrition, yet the one pertaining to natural flavors was never one I was really able to answer. I decided it was time to do some sleuthing myself to figure it out.
If you have familiarized yourself with reading labels and lists of ingredients (which I encourage you to do every time you buy a food that comes in a package), you might have seen the term “natural flavors” being used. According to the FDA, “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means 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.”
Essentially, natural flavors encompass anything that adds a desired flavor to a product, as long as it comes from a natural source (which does not imply it carries any nutritional value). This is a rather vague definition, in that it does not tell us exactly what is in our food. If a flavor is solely coming from one product it is listed as a singular flavor, such as “strawberry flavor.” However, when it is more than one flavoring, it is under the umbrella term “natural flavors.” And there is no restrictions on how many different things are in that food. In fact, both natural and artificial flavors are synthesized in factories.
When I launched Gratisfied, it was important to me to maintain the integrity of my nutritional values. If I wouldn’t buy the product based on the ingredients list (and trust me, I’m picky), it wouldn’t be something that I would share with you. There is nothing to hide around here, that is my promise to you. Transparency has always been the name of our game. And just as I made clear as a health coach, I will never tell anyone what or what not to buy or eat. What I will do is keep providing you with information, so you feel empowered enough to make an educated decision.