Your favorite meals owe their tempting, delicious and truly satisfying taste to a delicious natural sweetness, saltiness or flavor. It could also be absolutely delicious due to some combinations of toppings and herbs. Or, the food you are eating may contain artificial flavors.
“Artificial flavorings are chemical compounds used to make food get a certain taste, but it’s important to note that all the components of our food, whether natural or artificial, are made of chemicals, even water,” says dietician Laura Burak , founder of GetNaked Nutrition and author of Lose weight with smoothies.
For more information, check out 5 Toxic Food Ingredients That Have Been Linked to Health Problems.
Explain that natural flavors come from natural sources such as fruit, while artificial flavors do not. However, both are used in food science to make packaged foods tasty, whether they are cheesy, buttery, or cinnamon, and chemically they aren’t that different from each other. Some common artificial flavors used to sweeten foods are vanilla or fruit, and herb, butter or buffalo flavors are used for salty notes.
When it comes to concerns about artificial flavors, Burak says the panic is unfounded.
“Many ‘health influencers’ now peddle fear about using artificial flavorings in food. But the fact is, no matter how you look at it, your diet today is going to be elaborate,” he says. “Even ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ foods such as quinoa undergo processing to remove the grain from the plant and pack it well in a small bag to cook at home.”
As for the potential elimination of artificial flavors from your diet, Burak explains that the only ones he would recommend limiting or even eliminating are artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose (Splenda), which are often used in sodas, candy, etc. canned food, baked goods, and jams and jellies. There have been concerns in the past about the possible connection between artificial sweeteners and diseases such as cancer. While there is apparently no solid evidence to support this, and Burak claims they are “technically safe to consume,” he also notes that he hardly ever sees them helping people achieve their health goals.
“These sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so they can raise the threshold for that sweet taste you crave and make it harder for you to wean yourself from sugar, an addiction that I believe is the biggest health problem in our country,” explains Burak. He adds that he would advise you to go for the real thing.
“A little bit of real sugar is a lot less sweet and can bring your taste buds back to a food tasting baseline, without that super sweet taste that’s masking the real flavor.”
To find out more about what might be in your food, be sure to read 6 Toxic Food Ingredients That Have Been Linked to Cancer.