Have you ever checked the list of ingredients on any packaged food that you bought? Have you seen the words “natural flavor” on there? Then, did you wonder what it is?

Let me tell you something, these two words are quite confusing. I mean, “natural” is a good thing, isn’t it? Have you seen the words “artificial flavor” before? Did those freak you out? But “natural flavor”, well, it’s natural!

Now, let’s take a moment to understand what “natural flavor” really means.

What is Natural Flavor?

Check out this video, sent to me a while ago and inspired this article:


• Natural vs. Artificial: The only difference between “artificial flavor” and “natural flavor” is that natural flavor is derived from something that was ONCE natural, while artificial flavor is entirely made in the lab. But that does not mean that natural flavor is one bit natural! Both contain between 50 to 100 ingredients, hidden from the consumer.

• Natural flavor is from nature, right? This video is fascinating! And it brings out the stark contrast between beautiful oranges, grown in nature, the lab, full of chemicals and testing to get something ‘delicious’ into us, and finally, a grocery store FULL OF something that started out being grown in nature! So correct, natural flavor was once an orange or a plum, but it no longer is.

• What it’s used for: Natural flavors are used by food companies for a variety of things like preservatives, flavor enhancers, and interestingly (this was the most fascinating for me): to make up for flavor lost to making something “sugar-free” or “fat-free”. This means that when the diet industry is putting out a product that is meant to help you lose weight or get “healthy”, it’s actually poisoning you!

• Moreover, natural flavor leads to weight gain. 

An example of a “natural flavor” is MSG – known to cause a whole host of diseases in the human body.In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that MSG (one of those “natural flavorings”) is linked to weight gain:

“Men and women who ate the most MSG (a median of 5 grams a day) were about 30 percent more likely to become overweight by the end of the study than those who ate the least amount of the flavoring (less than a half-gram a day), the researchers found. After excluding people who were overweight at the start of the study, the risk rose to 33 percent”.

• Organic/vegan product label? Does not make a product healthy. Natural flavor is often an ingredient in products where you would never expect to find it, like orange juice. Even more surprisingly, the FDA definition for natural flavors and flavoring does  not exclude the extraction of this flavoring from animals. This means that even if you buy something vegan, and it has the ingredient “natural flavor”, it could be coming from an animal.

The FDA definition is as follows:

“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.”

My tips on wise shopping:

natural flavor

1. Organic, vegan, vegetarian, (and even raw) does not = healthy. Read labels! Anything you don’t understand = put the product back on the shelf. If you see the words “natural flavor/flavoring”, skip it.

2. Adjust your taste buds to TRUE natural flavors. Natural flavors should come from food that actually comes from nature, without the mediation of a lab. In a very short time after you focus on cutting out processed foods, you will be in love with the flavors of nature, and you will not need any “natural flavor” to enjoy your meals and feel satisfied, as well as lose weight and get healthy.

3. Do not fall for “low fat”, “sugar free” labels. These mean that what you are buying is even worse than the original. To make up for reducing sugar and fat, food manufacturers use “natural flavor”, which actually makes you gain weight! If you are drinking milk (which I highly discourage), buy the full-fat. Same goes for any other products.

4. Remember the image of the lab vs. the orchard in this youtube clip. In conclusion, eat from the orchard, skip that lab! Images are powerful. Use them to your advantage when you shop.

Be sure to grab your free PDF high-raw vegan, processed-food free grocery list here:

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Marina Yanay-Triner is a wellness coach and recipe developer through Soul in the Raw. Marina creates easy and delicious vegan recipes and writes about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, focusing on evidence-based nutrition information. She loves to help clients go and stick to plant based eating through her powerful coaching program, combining nutrition and cooking education along with transformational mindset work. Marina adopted a whole food, plant based lifestyle over 7 years ago, inspired by her mother's incredible healing story of reversing a crippling bladder disease. She has reversed PMS symptoms and encourage emotional healing from trauma as a result of this transition. Marina is incredibly passionate about the vegan diet for human health, animal welfare, and the well-being of our planet, all of which she envisions as co-dependent.