Food Myths

Understand the difference between natural and artificial flavors

Every time we go shopping and we stop to look at the labels and ingredients of the products we buy, I am sure that “natural” and “artificial” always attracts our attention. When seeing these words automatically our subconscious associates the natural with the healthy and desired, however the artificial word already has implicit deception, that as slight. But does this always correspond to reality?

natural and artificial flavors

Difference between natural and artificial flavors

According to scientific study, foods labeled “natural” or “organic” are mistakenly perceived as low in calories and healthier. Thanks to advances in science and technology, there are ingredients such as artificial additives that perform different functions for the benefit of food.

However, a popular belief persists that products that list organic ingredients on their labels have fewer calories than those that do not contain organic ingredients or incorporate artificial additives.

The study, conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making (2010), prevails the perception that products that mention the words “organic” or “natural” have fewer calories and they can be consumed in greater quantity than similar non-organic or artificial foods.

The study found that most people who read the nutritional information for cookies made with natural flour were more likely to believe that the product had fewer calories than traditional cookies that contained artificial additives. They also added that organic cookies were more appropriate to eat more often than conventional ones.

Artificial ingredients can be part of a balanced diet, provided they have been approved by health authorities. Excess of any food or drink is not recommended, regardless of its source, since there are no good or bad foods, only poorly balanced diets.

The fact that a food or drink contains natural or organic ingredients does not mean that it has fewer calories or that it is nutritionally richer than others that have artificial substances. For example, cookies with natural ingredients possibly have the same nutritional content as cookies with artificial additives. Both could perfectly have the same amount of calories and fat or saturated fat. For this reason, it is extremely important to read nutritional labels to make informed decisions when consuming a food and to avoid misinterpreting the labels on the packaging.

Benefits of artificial additives

There are thousands of ingredients that are used to make food. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintain a list of more than 3,000 approved ingredients in its database, including artificial additives.

Artificial flavors fulfill different beneficial functions and are present in a good part of food and beverages. For example, some beverages are fortified with artificially synthesized vitamins. Also, canned and packaged foods contain additives that allow them to maintain their nutritional characteristics and extend their shelf life.

According to the expert, the main functions of artificial additives are to extend the shelf life of the product, inhibit the growth of bacteria and improve nutritional quality. They are also added to preserve or improve the color, flavor, aroma and texture of a food or drink.

Artificial additives are safe

All ingredients are subject to the same strict international safety standards, regardless of whether they are natural or artificial. In order for any natural or artificial substance to be approved as an additive for use in food and beverages, it is an essential requirement that its safety be demonstrated through a series of experimental studies by various expert committees such as United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The Codex Alimentarius Commission of the Joint FAO/ WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) or the European Food Safety Agency, among others.

Artificial food additives are the most studied substances from the point of view of nutrition, safety, toxicity and side effects of all foods. Extensive tests and studies are required to be approved. These processes normally take several years.

In fact, they are better known than many natural ingredients. When the use of these additives is finally released, there is a wealth of knowledge that makes scientists feel confident that such substances are safe for the health of the population.

What do natural, organic and artificial mean?

The vast majority of foods and beverages consumed daily are composed of natural, organic and artificial ingredients:

  • Natural: Contains no artificial ingredients or colors and has been processed as little as possible (a process that fundamentally does not alter raw products).
  • Organic: Refers to a food or agricultural product that has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that promote the cycle of natural resources, promote ecological balance and the conservation of biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, among other things, cannot be used to qualify the product as “organic”.
  • Synthetic : Refers to man-made substances. They can be of two types:
    1. Natural-identical: Refers to artificial substances chemically identical to those found in nature. They are used by the body in the same way, since they have the same functions. Two examples are synthetic vitamins and minerals.
    2. Artificial: Elements or products created by man, either to imitate characteristics and functions of a natural one or to pretend that element without possessing all its characteristics. A good example is intense sweeteners that simulate sugar in taste but do not add calories and have a different chemical structure.

Final words

A person with healthy lifestyles is one who eats a balanced diet and performs constant physical activity. The important thing about a diet is that it is balanced; a healthy person can consume food and beverages with natural, organic and artificial ingredients. It is important to always include sufficient amounts of cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, fish, oils and fats in the diet, as well as adequate hydration.