Natural Flavors: Myths, Misconceptions, and How They Align With Paleo and Keto Diets
Paleo and Keto diets are trendy these days and have many similarities. For example, they both emphasize whole foods unless you’re practicing “dirty Keto” (more about that later in this article).
For this reason, Paleo and Keto are often considered natural diets that may include so-called “natural flavorings.” But are these “natural” flavorings really natural in the same way that whole foods are natural? Are they as natural as the flavorings in 8th Wonder Teas?
The shocking answer is, “No, not really.” This article discusses the truth about natural flavorings and which diet – Paleo or Keto – will likely include them.
What are natural flavors?
The FDA defines natural flavoring as an extract or essential oil derived from plants or animals. These flavors can be obtained from various sources, such as those listed below.
- Fruit or fruit juice
- Spices and herbs
- Dairy products, including fermented products
- Vegetables or vegetable juice
- Meat, seafood, or poultry
- Edible yeast, roots, bark, buds, or similar plant material
Food manufacturers use heat and/or enzymes (2) to extract natural flavors from sources like plants or animals and add them to foods. This practice is becoming more common to meet the demand for natural flavors. After all, studies show that food products labeled as "natural" tend to be received favorably, with people assuming they are healthier and lower in calories (2a).
Here's an interesting fact: according to a study, people tend to think that natural products have fewer calories (about 18% less) than their regular counterparts, even though they actually contain the same number of calories (2b),
The attraction toward natural foods is undoubtedly why natural flavors are widely used in foods and drinks. Indeed, research shows they are the fourth most common ingredient on food labels (3).
Are natural flavors nutritious and healthy?
Unfortunately, no. Natural flavors are meant to enhance the taste of food, not contribute to its nutritional value.
They can even be downright unhealthy. You see, despite coming from natural food sources, natural flavors are produced in a lab and often contain synthetic chemicals added during manufacturing.
In fact, according to the Environmental Working Group (4), these flavor mixtures can consist of over 100 chemicals, including solvents, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, and preservatives. These additives can make up 80% to 90% of natural flavors, diverging sharply from their original "natural" source.
While natural flavors are generally considered safe for human consumption when occasionally consumed in processed foods (6), it's important to note that they may contain numerous chemicals, potentially resulting in adverse reactions (7).
For individuals with food allergies or following strict diets, it's crucial to carefully examine the substances in a natural flavoring to ensure they are suitable for consumption.
You might be perplexed as to why flavorings can be labeled "natural" when they often contain chemicals. The answer is that the term "natural" lacks a formal legal definition. In the United States, no specific regulations dictate manufacturers' use of "natural" claims (5), which can result in misleading marketing.
If you wish to steer clear of potentially harmful chemicals found in "natural" flavors, your best bet is to opt for organic foods and beverages like 8th Wonder Teas. The organic label, which the USDA backs, either prohibits or severely limits the use of additives and processing aids.
How do natural flavors differ from artificial ones?
The primary distinction between natural and artificial flavors is their source of origin. While natural flavors are derived from edible sources, artificial flavors are created in a laboratory using FDA-approved (8) flavoring chemicals or food additives.
The FDA defines artificial flavors as any substance that imparts flavor to food but is not naturally occurring. However, some experts argue (9) that the chemical composition of artificial flavors can be identical to that found in natural flavors.
Can food items contain natural and artificial flavors?
Absolutely. It's common for food manufacturers to utilize a blend of natural and artificial flavors in their products. Artificial flavors are often favored for their cost-effectiveness and ability to produce consistent results.
However, as the term "natural" carries a more positive connotation among consumers and is perceived as a healthier option, manufacturers often incorporate these ingredients instead of or alongside artificial flavors.
What are some common ingredients listed as natural flavors?
Food chemists have developed hundreds of natural flavors, several of which are frequently used in various foods and beverages. Here are some examples:
- Citral. Citral, which is also referred to as geranial, is an extract derived from lemongrass, lemon, orange, and pimento. This ingredient is commonly used in citrus-flavored beverages and sweets.
- Amyl acetate. This compound is extracted from bananas to impart a banana-like flavor to baked goods.
- Castoreum. This is a slightly sweet chemical that is extracted from the anal secretions of beavers. Although this substance can be used as a vanilla substitute, it is quite expensive and rarely used for this purpose.
- Benzaldehyde. This substance is derived from cinnamon oil, almonds, and other ingredients to impart an almond flavor and scent to foods.
- Linden ether. This compound is extracted from linden honey to provide honey flavor to foods.
- Acetoin. Acetoin is produced through the fermentation process of certain foods, such as wines, dairy products, and sugars, by specific bacteria. This substance is commonly used to give a buttery flavor to foods. It can also be found naturally occurring in select fruits and vegetables.
- Massoia lactone. This compound is derived from the oak of the Massoia tree. It has a coconut scent and flavor. Though once a popular natural flavoring, it is now usually produced synthetically because the extraction process is too costly and destroys the tree.
It's important to note that lab-created chemicals can generate all these flavors, but they would be listed as artificial flavorings on the food label.
Which diet – Paleo or Keto – will help me avoid natural flavorings?
As mentioned above, Paleo and Keto both emphasize whole foods. However, the Paleo diet is more likely to be genuinely all-natural. Here’s why.
The Paleo Diet
The paleo diet aims to imitate the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer predecessors.
As processed and refined foods did not exist during the Paleolithic era, also known as the caveman period, they are not allowed on the Paleo diet. Therefore, foods that commonly contain natural and artificial flavors, such as processed foods, sweetened beverages, artificial sweeteners, and refined vegetable oils, are avoided on this diet.
The Paleo diet permits and fully embraces beverages such as 8th Wonder Teas, as they are organic and contain truly natural flavors without synthetic chemicals. It's a healthier choice for those following this diet.
The Keto Diet
Like Paleo, the Keto Diet emphasizes whole foods. But, many people on this diet practice the less-restrictive version known as “dirty Keto.”
What is Dirty Keto? The "dirty keto" or "lazy keto" diet involves consuming low-carb processed and packaged foods, such as canned goods, packaged keto snacks, vegetable oils, processed meats, processed cheeses, and margarine. While these foods are still considered keto-friendly, they may not offer the same level of nutrients as a clean Keto diet.
But even if you’re sticking strictly to “clean Keto,” you may be consuming foods with natural flavorings that use chemicals for processing. For example, eating cheese and butter is allowed on Keto. But guess what? A chemical compound called diacetyl is found in every dairy product to give them their unique flavors. Indeed, it is often used with Acetoin mentioned above to give foods their buttery flavor.
Though diacetyl is often called an “artificial flavor,” it is a byproduct of fermentation by specific bacteria, making it a “natural” flavoring.
Unfortunately, diacetyl can be very harmful to your health.
Evidence links diacetyl to a severe respiratory illness known as bronchiolitis obliterans. In the past, diacetyl was used in microwave popcorn, but it was banned for this use after studies revealed that individuals exposed to it had a higher risk of developing bronchiolitis obliterans.
Paleo wins, hands down!
So, when it comes to avoiding so-called “natural” flavors, Paleo wins hands down!
Understanding that natural flavors in packaged food and drink items aren't automatically healthier than artificial flavorings is crucial. Simply being naturally flavored doesn't make a food a healthy choice either, as it typically does not contribute any nutritional value. In addition, natural flavorings often contain chemicals used during manufacturing.
Consuming whole, minimally processed foods and beverages made with natural ingredients – like 8th Wonder Teas – is strongly advised for optimal health.
If you’re trying to decide between the Paleo and Keto diets, remember that you can avoid natural and artificial flavorings with Paleo.
Enjoy the genuinely all-natural flavors of 8th Wonder teas!
Experience the wonder of 8th Wonder Tea!
Indulge in exquisite blends of sustainably-sourced organic herbs, carefully crafted to provide a refreshing and invigorating escape from the mundane. Our commitment to using only the finest ingredients ensures that every sip is packed with delightful, truly natural flavors and wholesome goodness.
8th Wonder offers a sparkling organic superfood flavor blend for every taste:
- Chai Tea (featuring Apple + Ashwagandha)
- Green Tea (featuring Passionfruit + Ginseng)
- Oolong Tea (featuring Mangosteen + Turmeric)
- Rooibos Tea (featuring Vanilla + Moringa)
- Matcha Tea (featuring Cherry Blossom + Reishi)
So, why settle for the ordinary when you can uncover your sense of wonder with every delicious gulp? Treat yourself to the blissful tranquility of 8th Wonder Tea today!