Have you ever noticed the term “natural flavors” on a product you purchased and thought nothing of it? After all, it sounds like it’s safe for consumption, right? This week’s video may change your mind.


     Hey there, I’m Elaine Gardner, I’m the founder of DesignYourHealthyLife.com. After struggling with significant health challenges for more than two decades, I found my way back to health by embracing holistic healing and a healthy, holistic lifestyle. I want to share everything I’ve learned with you so that you can create the health that you deserve, feel amazing, and live the life of your dreams. I’ve been sharing a lot of information about food lately and how to navigate our complicated food system. You can find all of these videos on my Design Your Healthy Life Facebook page.

     Today I want to talk to you about natural flavors. In a recent video I talked about the word “natural”. We use this word a lot within the food system but it actually has no meaning, particularly from a legal perspective. Think about what the word “natural” actually means… anything that comes from nature. And when we boil it all down, that’s all we have. So everything that we’ve created comes from nature. It is the only resource that we have, but it doesn’t mean that it’s safe or healthy.

     From a food perspective, natural is not a term that’s legally defined, so it doesn’t mean anything. A company doesn’t have to follow any set guidelines or have their products tested or verified for safety in order to put the word “natural” on a product. So the word “natural” on a food label has no meaning to start with. And then when you combine it with the word “flavors”, it gets even more complicated than that.

     I’d like to read you a definition that I found for natural flavors. Under the Code of Federal Regulation, natural flavors is defined as “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.”

     What does that actually mean?? That’s so damn confusing. When I stumbled upon that explanation, it really did not help me to understand how natural flavors are actually derived. Today.com also states that, “Both artificial and natural flavors are made by “flavorists” in a laboratory by blending either “natural” chemicals or “synthetic” chemicals to create flavorings.” Anything manipulated can create something that is not safe or suitable for human consumption. So regardless of where it comes from, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe.

     Another comment that I found states that artificial flavoring may actually be safer than natural flavoring because only safety tested components are utilized in artificial flavors. It just gets really, really confusing. So the bottom line seems to be, there’s no proof to allow us to know whether natural flavors are safe. And I haven’t found any resource that shows how individual natural flavors for products are made or what their base ingredients were.

     I may be deluding myself by imagining that some companies are actually making safe natural flavors while others are not, but since there is no way to tell, I avoid any product that contains natural flavors. I just don’t know what they’re derived from. And again, there’s no testing to show whether they’re safe or not, so I’m not going to risk it. It seems that, from what I’ve found, they really aren’t safe. So I’m going to err on the side of caution and avoid those things.

     I know it’s not easy; our food supply is really complicated. But you must understand what to choose and what to avoid. Food should be nourishing and not something that you need to fear, but our current food supply is loaded with ingredients that can interfere with your ability to be well. You must read labels and know what to look for. You may be surprised where you find natural flavors. I was looking at organic hams the other day and all the options contained natural flavors. I was completely blown away and really disappointed. I just walked away without purchasing any of them. So be sure to always read labels.

     If you found this video helpful or if it resonates with you, please feel free to share it or post a comment for me below. The more people who choose healthy food options, the more healthy options there will be for us to choose from. Our food system is profit-driven, so products that don’t generate profit will disappear from store shelves. If we choose healthy products, we’ll get more of those. If we don’t spend money on unhealthy products, they’ll start to disappear from the store shelves. It will be so much easier for all of us to choose better ingredients and better products when there are less unhealthy options available. We can change our health and our food system by making good choices.