A conversation with a couple of friends recently renewed my interest in the term ‘natural flavors.’
‘Artificial flavors’ are entirely man-made – we get that. But we get fooled by thinking ‘natural flavors’ on a label are just as nature created them. On the contrary, they are almost as processed as the artificial flavors. True, the original ingredient is found in nature. But it is extracted, purified, enhanced, and then added back into a food. In other words, pretty highly messed with. The chemicals used to process and enhance the natural flavors are almost identical, and in both types of flavoring, there could be solvents and/or preservatives.
Even worse, just because it’s originally from a natural source, doesn’t mean we’d want to eat it. It can be derived from plants, animals or ‘matter.’ For example, castoreum is sometimes added to natural flavors, but this natural source will gross you out. An article on Care2.com describes it this way, “Castoreum is a bitter, orange-brown, odoriferous, oily secretion, found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of beavers. The discharge of the castor sac is combined with the beaver’s urine, and used during scent marking of territory. Both male and female beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail.” Sound appetizing? If you’re vegan, watch out because you’ll never know the source of the ‘natural flavoring.’
But let’s get this straight: any ingredient in ‘natural flavors’ – or ‘artificial flavors’ for that matter – does not have to be listed on a food label because it’s not ‘food.’ You want to know something else that’s often disguised in ‘natural flavors’ or artificial flavors? Monosodium Glutamate (MSG); yup, the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome stuff that causes allergy problems and side effects for so many people. You can read more about the effects of MSG on humans at www.naturalnews.com.
Again, because MSG is actually a part of the flavoring process and not a food ingredient, it does not need to be listed on the packaging label. Kathy Abascal, a bio-chemistry, neurobiology, and medical researcher says in her book The Abascal Way states that MSG is always present in:
- Autolyzed yeast
- Calcium caseinate
- Glutamic acid
- Hydrolyzed corn gluten
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Monosodium glutamate
- Natrium glutamate
- Sodium caseinate
- Textured protein
- Yeast extract
- Yeast food
- Yeast nutrient
Further, she lists other ingredients that almost always include or produce MSG during the processing phase:
- Barley malt
- Bouillon, broth or stock
- Citric acid
- Corn protein
- Flavors and flavorings
- Malt extract
- Malt flavoring
- Natural beef, chicken, and pork flavorings
- Pea protein
- Protease enzymes
- Soy protein
- Soy protein concentrate
- Soy protein isolate
- Soy sauce
- Ultra-pasteurized dairy products
- Whey protein
- Whey protein concentrate
- Whey protein isolate
Mike Adams, The Health Ranger at Natural News, also lists these common additives that contain MSG:
- Amino acids
- Brewer’s yeast
- Malted barley
- Malt extract
Adams says these ingredients may have enough MSG to serve as triggers in those who are highly sensitive to it:
- Brown rice syrup
- Corn starch
- Corn syrup
- Lipolyzed butter fat
- Milk powder
- Modified food starch
- Most products that are identified as “low fat” or “no fat”
- Products that list the terms enriched or vitamin enriched
- Products that are “pasteurized”
- Reduced fat milk
- Rice syrup
- Vinegar, including balsamic vinegar
And guess what else. All the additives listed above are even found in organic processed foods, supplements, drugs, personal care products, and cosmetics. According to Adams, they are also added to pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which can result in residues on or within the edible portion of fruits and vegetables.
So there you have it: “natural is NOT NATURAL when it’s turned into ‘natural flavors,’ which are definitely something you don’t need to eat. Stick with whole plant foods and you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding these nasty ingredients.
Addedum July 11, 2017:
My sincere apologies to you! I’ve been caught in the ‘somewhat fake news’ web. Thanks to a couple of alert readers, I found that the information I sent out yesterday about castoreum is a bit misleading.
The source of it from beaver glands is true. And it is true that it has been used as a food additive, primarily as an enhancer of vanilla, strawberry and raspberry flavorings found in products such as iced tea, ice cream, gelatin, candy, fruit-flavored drinks, and yogurt.
But the cost and difficulty of obtaining it makes it mostly prohibitive for food additive use. The total annual national consumption is only about 292 pounds. Castoreum is still used , but mostly in the perfume industry. You can read more about it here.
So there you have it – castoreum use: true but not true = fuzzy truth. I want you to know it is never my intention to spread false information or fuzzy truth, and I am truly sorry for sounding like an alarmist. But I do feel it’s vitally important that we learn to eliminate as much chemical load as we can, in our food and in our lifestyle in general.
As in life, we all have lessons to learn, and you have just witnessed my learning lesson in this blog. Thank you for your understanding, and do know that the rest of the blog regarding food additives and MSG was checked in several sources, and nothing shows up on Snopes to make me believe it is not accurate.
I still recommend that you read labels, and try to stay away from those loaded with chemicals and natural flavorings. I want you to live a long, healthy, happy life, and consumption whole plant foods is the first step to aging well.