I have a confession to make. My once in a while processed food meltdown is with Annie’s Chocolate Bunnies. Once I crack open the box, I literally cannot stop eating them. (And thinking about them right now, is making my mouth water.) It’s insane! I’ve noticed when I make homemade cookies I don’t get the feeling that I need to eat the entire plate… but with those Annie’s Bunnies, man, I really can’t stop. Why is it that they’re so addicting? Is it all the sugar? There’s actually more to it than that.
I recently sat down with Mark Schatzker, the author of The Dorito Effect – a must read book for all you foodies out there who read ingredients and care about what you’re eating. You know how addicting Doritos are…well, the stories he tells in this book about food and flavor are out of control incredible. I highlighted my copy like crazy and immediately reached out to Mark because I was so impressed with the investigative work he has done. You can watch my complete interview with Mark here:
The main topic of our discussion was “natural flavors”. If you read ingredient lists you know these are EVERYWHERE…listed on almost every package in the aisle at the grocery store. Here are some highlights from our interview…
- Flavor in nature doesn’t come without nutrition. Why does real food have flavor in the first place? Why does an apple taste like an apple? Our brains associate a flavor with its nutrients. Foods naturally taste amazing to us because they contain the nutrients we need. Flavors are the cue that tells us where to find the nutrients we need.
- For example – the flavors that humans love in tomatoes are synthesized in tomatoes from essential nutrients like beta carotene, amino acids, and omega 3’s. The flavor in tomatoes is a chemical sign that tells your brain there’s good stuff in here – you should eat me. Our stores are full of food that taste like all kinds of different things, but don’t come with those nutrients. You can create a food that tastes like a tomato without the nutrients in a tomato – and that’s a problem.
- Flavors make you eat things you wouldn’t normally eat. Soda without flavors is just carbonated water and sugar. No one would drink that without the flavors. It’s not just the sugar… flavor is the missing piece of the puzzle.
- The first Doritos were just salted tortilla chips. No one really liked them until they added flavoring, and you had Taco Doritos – which took something that no one really ate to something we literally can’t stop eating. It works, it works really well.
- Something with “Natural Blueberry Flavor” means they pulled some flavor from actual blueberries. Does that make it better than other “natural flavors”? No – You are really just extracting the tiniest tiny bit of blueberry to make the flavor, but leaving behind all the good stuff that makes blueberries healthy – the antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber – all those things are missing.
- This is a way for the food industry to use fewer real blueberries and trick consumers into thinking they are getting nutrition that isn’t there. They’re pulling a fast one on us! A good example is Gogurts… lots of sugar and flavor, but no fruit.
- Natural flavors aren’t toxic. What they do is cause people to eat foods they wouldn’t normally eat. We all think we have the mental ability to control what we eat, but flavor technology makes us crave foods we wouldn’t normally go near. These foods (like unhealthy soda) can make you sick and even eventually kill you.
- When looking at your food, as yourself: Did someone engineer this to be delicious or did nature engineer this to be delicious?
All of this is why I don’t eat things like RX Bars or drink La Croix canned water on a regular basis…
LaCroix is mostly just carbonated water… but I don’t consider food and drinks that are synthetically flavored (vs. being flavored with real food) a healthy everyday item. I don’t want to screw up the signals in my body that allow me to crave something because it has the nutrients I need. I also don’t want to eat foods that trick my tastebuds into downing almost a whole box in one sitting (like those Annie’s Bunnies!) I like to know exactly what I’m eating, and with “natural flavors” I’m left in the dark. Sticking with real food is just simpler, healthier, and oftentimes cheaper too.
If you’re really hooked on RX Bars, I’m joining GMO Inside and asking them to go organic and to remove natural flavors!
What do you think about all this? Are you going to be more on the lookout now for natural flavors in your food? Let me know in the comments. Share this video with all your friends…
P.S. You’ve got to pick up a copy of Mark’s book, The Dorito Effect – he goes much more in depth into this topic and really opened up my eyes to the link between flavors, food cravings, and nutrition. You can find it here.