We see artificial flavors in almost everything we eat today. But have you ever stop to think about whether they are good or bad for your health? Are they dangerous for you and your family?
Just so you have an idea since as mothers we are always trying to look for healthier options. Industrialization and technology completely changed the food industry.
Millions of foods are produced every day, and companies expect us to consume (or at least buy) all of them.
Did you know that thousands of chemicals are used to make the production of a million of processed foods faster and cheaper? I know! This is mind-blowing.
This is the case of artificial flavors, which are heavily used in the products we regularly consume and are made of out of chemicals.
This is why as a mother striving for health I need you to know what artificial flavors are and the reasons why you should avoid them.
What are artificial flavors?
The tv is full of information regarding the dangers of consuming too much sugar or fat, but how often do we hear about artificial flavors? Not often enough, if you ask me.
Artificial flavors are added to processed foods in order to mimic the taste of natural ingredients. Yes, you read right in order “to mimic natural ingredients”.
But let me go on. It is easier to add the artificial flavor of strawberry to a cookie than actually using strawberries.
Doing that would take too many strawberries, making the process very expensive and slow. But just a reminder this is how it was done back in the day.
Additionally, artificial flavors last longer and don’t change with time, contrary to what may happen if you only used fresh strawberries.
It would taste like the authentic fruit but the taste would start to change within a few days, as fruits aren’t made to stay fresh forever.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both natural and artificial flavors, and defines the latter as “any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof”.
The definition of the FDA basically says that the source of artificial flavors is not natural, so all their ingredients are chemicals. There are about 1,300 ingredients approved by the FDA to be used in the production of artificial flavors.
However, the FDA does not require companies to say exactly what ingredients they used which is the scariest part of all.
This means we really don’t know what ingredients are being used since it’s not required to be listed.
Companies are only required to use ingredients Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). That’s why you’ll only see “artificial flavors” in the list of ingredients of your favorite snack, instead of the list of the 30 different chemicals used to make it taste like grapes.
But are artificial flavors healthy?
Well, answering this question may be a little hard, but I can tell you, they are definitely not good for us.
First, there are not enough studies that can prove that artificial flavors are bad for your health.
The problem is that there are hundreds of chemicals used in the production of artificial flavors, and the industry usually keeps their recipes as a secret.
It would be horrible if their competence knew how they make chips so tasty! so there are many possible combinations of ingredients which are used in many different amounts.
If we go back to the example of strawberries, the strawberry artificial flavors used in a milkshake may contain over 50 ingredients! And let’s remember they are all chemicals! Oh wow, this is scary.
However, there have been studies that measure the risk of consuming certain ingredients used in artificial flavors.
For example, a study carried out in 2010 showed that “isoeugenol”, used for flavoring drinks and chewing gum, is very similar to carcinogenic compounds and may be related to certain types of cancer.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), another ingredient of many artificial flavors, has also been studied and it is linked to different health problems, like migraines and obesity.
Unfortunately, studies’ results have been inconsistent and it is hard to give a clear conclusion about their safety.
As I mentioned earlier, artificial flavors aren’t good. Artificial flavors have no nutritional value, so they aren’t giving you any nutrients when you consume them. Also, they are mainly found in those processed foods that are unhealthy, and they may be the reason why you prefer processed foods over natural ones.
You may even think that they taste better. Think about it: does your favorite orange soda actually taste like an orange?
Artificial flavors trick your brain and make you want to eat many snacks.
Our brain associates certain flavors with its nutrients, but when you bite one of your banana-flavored candies and you don’t receive any nutrients, your body will want more and more to see if it receives those nutrients.
And this is so true. I go through hangry spells and I have noticed that sometimes I feel like I want to eat something sweet but when I do, I want more and more.
This means that if you want to be healthier, you should avoid artificial flavors.
The danger of artificial flavors
Artificial Flavoring as you already know causes many problems such as nervous system depression, dizziness, chest pain, headaches, fatigue, allergies, brain damage, seizures, nausea, and much more.
Some of the popular flavorings can also cause genetic defects, tumors, bladder cancer, and many other types of cancers.
Understood! Should I choose products with Natural Flavors instead?
Well… Not really. Yes, the source of the ingredients of “natural flavors” is natural, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t contain any chemicals.
Actually, only a portion of the ingredients is natural, and the rest is just a big number of chemicals. As well as artificial flavors, they have no nutritional value, and they may contain the same ingredients as artificial ones.
Natural flavors are also a problem for those who are vegan because the ingredients may come from a plant or an animal (or both), and as labels only say “natural flavors”, you’ll never know their origin.
We know this looked like the healthier option, but that’s why your favorite yogurt has a big label in the front that says “ONLY NATURAL FLAVORS!”. It’s only for commercial reasons so more people buy it.
Then what do I do? Should I completely stop consuming products with Artificial AND Natural Flavors?
Don’t worry, I am not suggesting that you should never buy products that contain artificial flavors. But there are some ways to significantly reduce them.
Instead of buying an orange sweetened beverage, why don’t you make some fresh orange juice at home?
Or buy it, just ask for a natural juice made with fresh (and real) oranges. Instead of buying strawberry yogurt for breakfast, why don’t you buy Greek yogurt and add some sliced fruits? Or learn to make those cinnamon cookies you adore!
I know it can be hard at the beginning because it seems like all the products nowadays have a bunch of chemicals, but slowly reducing the consumption of artificial flavors is completely possible.
You just have to be a little creative and think about your health! Natural and fresh foods will always be the best option!
Now tell me, what do you think about artificial flavors? I want to hear what you have to say.
*Isoeugenol and cancer: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3620743/
*Flavoring and manufacturing: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4520397/
*Natural Flavors and the FDA: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29140655