What does that term, “natural flavoring,” mean anyways?

Natural Flavoring via www.sarahkayhoffman.com.com

Photo Credit: vauvau via Compfight cc

Yesterday, while writing about what “you’re worth it” means, I realized that all the time sometimes I get really hot-tempered about 2 little words that creep up everywhere in the food industry….

natural flavoring

When I was back home in Minnesota earlier this summer, I had drinks with two of my best friends (which, by the way, I wish was on weekly repeat). I was telling them all about my nut butter line, the flavors, brand and what the line stands for.

My one friend said that she had a student in her class whose parents own a peanut butter company (name not to be mentioned here). She mentioned that their peanut butter is also “natural” and that it’s really good for you because it contains honey.

My very first thought was,

Why didn’t I consider them to be a direct competitor? Did I miss something on their website?

When I returned back to California, I looked them up again.

I made note of specific keywords on their homepage: finest and natural, high-quality ingredients, healthy treat.

Sounded great.

I proceeded by clicking on “flavors” and then “nutritional information.”

That’s when it hit me, and I knew immediately why I brushed over them so quickly.

The packaging states, “natural and premium ingredients.”

What is Natural Flavoring?

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What is Natural Flavoring agutsygirl.com and how does it affect your gut healing #guthealth #naturalflavoring #healthyliving

Digging into just one label I found that they were anything but natural and premium: natural flavor, maltodextrin, soy lecithin. (This was their peanut butter with the least amount of offenders, too.)

Note: This post isn’t about comparing my nut butter line to any others. That will never be my intention. This post is about trickery….because that’s a fun word, appropriately used when describing “natural flavoring.”

According to the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations, natural flavoring is:

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. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.

Too complicated? Yeah, I thought so, too.

Here is some simple info we can all understand

  1. So, basically, “natural flavors” is an umbrella term where food manufacturers can hide ingredients that may not sound super-appetizing to consumers. (Blisstree)
  2. Beaver Anal Gland Juice. This gross ingredient won’t show up on the label. Instead, companies using it in making processed food list it as “natural flavoring. (via Rodale)
  3. Natural ingredients may just be from an animals stomach or pancreas. Yeah, I know, eww gross, it’s called animal lipase and is an enzyme preparation. (SparkPeople)

In other words, “natural flavors” could mean a multitude of things. And while I’m not saying that they are always harmful, I am saying to pay attention to the term and product/brand using it.

Be a Skeptic

For me, for my gut and for yours, you need to be very skeptical of natural flavoring.

Have you ever considered that maybe the reason you can’t fully heal is because you are still consuming products that are full of trickery? Perhaps there is something in that natural flavoring that is continuing to destroy your gut?

If you really want to know, stop eating all naturally flavored products for a few months. Re-evaluate.

Regardless, continue to learn about and understand that just because something says “natural” doesn’t mean it is. YOU be the best food skeptic in your life….

You’re worth it.

p.s. I am not saying that all products with the words “natural flavoring” on them are bad. And I would know, too, because I work with many natural food companies who do use natural flavors (and can tell you almost exactly what those natural flavors consist of). 

What I am saying is that all are suspect, and if you’re serious about healing your gut, you should contact the manufacturer to ask exactly what the term means to them for that particular item.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

  1. A Gutsy Girl’s Master Resource
  2. The Gutsy Girl’s Bible
  3. Healthy Cleaning for a Healthy Gut

Finally Shark Tank sarahkayhoffman.com cake Delighted By Dessert Hummus Samarah size


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  1. It breaks my heart seeing people fall for the “natural” claims that are EVERYWHERE these days! And I’m sure it’s extra frustrating for you, when these companies end up being “competitors” even though their product is nothing like yours!

  2. ah, don’t even get me started on the food industry and what they define as natural. You said it. I don’t care about the company and what they put in their products, i care about being HONEST. Consumers need to know that NATURAL should mean NATURAL… REAL.

  3. I get so frustrated that those ingredients can be just labeled vaguely as “natural flavoring.” It’s time that the food industry stops tricking people – most don’t know how dangerous these “natural” ingredients can be!
    great post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Danica! The trickery is rotten. It makes me even more passionate about my nut butter line:)

    1. Thanks, Judy. The frustration is what makes me even more passionate about my product. I swear…I’ll never give up:)

  4. OK, first: I may never be the same again after the part about “Beaver Anal Gland Juice”. But second: this drives me crazy too. If I don’t clearly understand what every ingredient in a product is I tend to stay away.

    1. Ha….right? Furthermore, I’m sick of that fact that all of these “healthy” companies send those “natural” products to bloggers who pimp them out because they are “all natural.” It’s frustrating.

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