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Is "Natural" really natural?

Earlier this week we discussed the upcoming GMO labeling law in the US and the orchestrated efforts to keep consumers in the dark. 

Speaking of deceptive marketing, have you ever seen "Natural Flavors" listed on your food and wondered what that meant?

Me too! So I did some digging...

After all, if it's truly natural, like an essential oil, for example, then wouldn't you list the name of the actual ingredient itself right on the label?!

Turns out, "natural flavors" and "artificial flavors" may not be too different from one another. And in both cases, manufacturers can lump a whole BUNCH of additives into that one phrase on the label. 

So... even if a list showed only 5 ingredients... if one of them was Natural Flavors, you could secretly be consuming dozens of other substances!

The Food and Drug Administration says a natural flavor "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."

Even if derived from a real food source, these are still highly processed chemical additives. 

According to The New York Times natural flavors "can add synthetic solvents, preservatives, emulsifiers, carriers and other additives to a flavor that qualifies as natural under current regulations."

To be clear, I haven't seen hard evidence suggesting these additives specifically cause health problems – but that may be because without accountability, there is no chance to notice correlation. 

This is not meant to be alarmist, merely raising awareness of how processed foods can be more than a bit mysterious. 

Watch out for natural flavors in your food and see what you notice. They've been sneaking into the increasingly popular flavored sparkling waters! Of course, these products are infinitely better for you than traditional sodas, but it's still best to seek organic when you can. 

The good news is, the rules for natural flavors used in certified organic foods are much more strict.

Remember, the best 'natural flavors' come when you bite into whole fresh foods you pick yourself from your own garden or at your local farmer's market!


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