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.
52 responses to “Are Natural Flavors Really That Bad? (MUST WATCH)”
It’s absolutely terrible how many food companies use natural flavors in the ingredients. Many people think that means it’s healthy and that is farther from the truth.
How are the RX Bars healthy in any way? They aren’t. Something flavored with “natural blueberry flavor” is not truly healthy. It wouldn’t contain all the vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and health benefits of real, true blueberries. Same goes for that peanut option why is it “natural peanut flavor?” If real peanuts were used it would have the protein, fiber, and vitamins that peanuts have.
Why not use true lemons for the LaCroix drink? The vitamins of a lemon are destroyed with the whole “natural flavors.”
As for Doritos it’s not just the natural flavors to be worried about, it’s the added food dyes, the MSG, and tons of GMO.
I wouldn’t trust the Rx Bars or the LaCroix drink. Or Annie’s products (even the organic kind).
Too avoid natural flavors it’s not just GMO foods and drinks you have top avoid but you also have to watch for organic brands since several use natural flavors.
Natural flavors are just another way for the big food companies to get you addicted to the food they make, and make you sick. As for organic grands some think that because it says organic nobody would really glance at the ingredients.
Read the ingredients in your food and avoid GMOs and natural flavors. Easiest way to avoid all this toxic stuff put into food? Make your own food and drinks for the most part.
i watched the video at the beginning was stumbling few minutes it was ok.
Went to watch the video and it says “Video Unavailable” ? Censoring ?
Same for me.
Hi T, I was able to access the video without any problem. Not sure if it matters, but I use google? 🙂
No video comes up on the page for me 🙁
ditto–No video, just blank space. …i can’t believe dates are sprayed too! roundup sprayed on soil[assuming] gets in the fruit up so high? can we not assume things are clean anymore? do we have to check each little item in ingredients!
It doesnt make any sense that roundup would be sprayed on dates- they grow on palm trees. Maybe a pesticide is used, but weed killer would be inappropriate.
If you want to know the foods most heavily sprayed, heres a link. https://www.downtoearth.org/environment/organic-vs-conventional-farming/dirty-dozen-most-heavily-sprayed-foods
If you have Ad Blocker Plus you have to click disable on this page or website and then refresh the page. The video will pop up then. Or if you have Disconnect as an add in to block ad info sending. Click whitelist this site and the video will pop up. It happens to me often, no video and then when I white list on Disconnect and refresh it will come up.
This is the honest good truth, my disabled adult son that lives with me cannot stop eating those chocolate bunnies either, so I stopped buying them. I only bought them twice, knowing that he loves chocolate but he ate the entire box each time. He has never ate the entire box of anything he always seemed to at least save half for other members of the family, but he cannot seem to stop eating these, I have never gotten a chance to taste them, maybe that’s good or I would have been to addicted to stop buying them, lol.
Thanks so much Vani for your Warrior spirit, you have trained your army well. I have shared your site with many new soldiers!
Same for me.
Would the “Soda Stream” be a healthy homemade drink option if a person added their own real flavorings like lemon or lime juice or a small amount of home-prepared fruit juice? Can anyone share their own experience with this?
That’s a good question.
Carbonation with meals will automatically kick your body out of the parasympathetic mode (needed for proper digestion) and if done continually over time will reek havoc on your upper GI tract, causing worse issues down the line, leading to numerous health issues, IE auto immune, leaky gut, IBS, etc.
I think so as long as you stick to (natural) juice such as lemon or lime- we use the soda stream a lot without any flavors because we love sparkling water!
Yes of course!!!! Lime slices are my favorite. Remember that you should not brush your teeth within 30 minutes of drinking fizzy waters because of your teeth enamel oxox
I had an ileostomy and if I drank a soda of any kind, it went through to the bag in about five minutes. That means that the body does not want it at all and works hard to immediately get rid of the offending food. From my experience with this I do not drink soda at all. Kambucha or water kefir is a much better option.
That’s what I used to do until I got used to the water plain. There are some negative things written about carbinated drinks in general but I love bubbles in my drinks and it’s better than the alternatives.
I love this! I also think it’s great he talks about one of my favorite and most influential professors in college Dr. Fred Provenza. Absolutely true info. I knew a lot of it before but was really helpful to put more together. I am afraid to eat anything now, lol.
My friend who was a M.D. sent me this info: the word natural flavors may contain up to 100 ingredients, including synthetic chemicals (unless organic or non-GMO Verified). Flavors can also include excitotoxins like MSG that cause your tastebuds to experience an increased desire for the food. Talk about food manufacturers addicting people to their products.
This can be avoided by primarily eating non-processed food. Most processed food has very little nutritional value. It’s best at putting non-wanted pounds on the body. If a food needs processing; it was not designed by the Maker for human consumption. For example, we could not eat grains, if they were not processed. According to James Braly, M.D. who wrote Dangerous Grains…over 200 chronic illnesses can be attributed to eating grains.
Not just grains. The same goes for meat, dairy products, fish, and even soy (tofu and GMO soy).
Well, in the Bible there is a story of Jesus and his disciples walking through a grain field picking the grains and eating them (unprocessed). The bread that USED to be made was with wheat that was milled between to stones and very coursely at that. Bread was a staple even 2000 years ago. But the processing of it didnt include bleaching the wheat and milling it till it was a fine powder.
Here is an article I wrote which was published on Mind Body Green.
How to ditch “Natural Flavors” – and why you should care.
…”Got it? FAKE flavors are added to mimic the real stuff, cheaply and purposely. To create a taste which is exclusive to their brand – a delectable flavor available no where else….”
You never see “unnautral flavors” on labels but essential that is what the truthful label on “natural flavors” should be.If they put that on, health conscious people would simply not buy it; which is precisely why we should steer clear from this rubbish.
Hi Karen! Just read your article, it’s great! I’m so overwhelmed about the subject…Thank you.
I absolutely LOVE Epic’s Pork Rinds, Salt/Pepper. They are actually a good for you food. The only ingredients are Fried Pork Skins (in their own high quality rendered lard), Salt, Black Pepper, Sea Salt, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder. No sugar. Zero carbs. I could so easily eat the whole bag (5 portions), but I portion out about 1/4 bag and put it away before I munch, or it would be all over. Light, crunchy, salty, tasty, fresh. They are minimally processed. This is about as junky as I get. Still, it would be sooo easy to eat the whole bag. So what’s going on there? My diet has ample healthy fats, sea salt, veggies, protein, etc.
the skins plus lard- isn’t that a lot of saturated fat?
also this–> https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt3chHPdnaw
Nothing fried is good for you!!! Cancer cells love fried foods and sugary foods.
why: “Cancer cells love fried foods”–never heard that one[of course if processed food,or fried in bad oils, or at high temps that ruin the oil]. EVEN IF lightly fried in good tropical or animal oils[like duck fat…]?
I don’t eat anything that is processed and has ingredients that are not completely from nature. Manufactured fake foods are making all of us sick. I eat real organic fruit nuts seeds produce grass fed meat etc. No chips no cakes no pies no crackers no garbage full of toxins
The video stopped halfway through and I could not get any more of it to play….would likely see it all, it was just getting juicy!….
Second try today to watch the video. Still will not play.
It is my understanding that ‘natural flavors’ can contain up to 60% MSG before “MSG” has to be included in the label as it’s own ingredient. MSG is ‘natural in origin, since it was derived from seaweed. It is a ‘flavor enhancer’ because it is neuroexcititory, keeps neurons firing at the synapse beyond the time that the taste buds would have done without the MSG added. I believe that this can lead to exhausting the neurons, depleting them of supplies faster than they can recover. Many other ingredients besides natural flavors can also contain up to 60% MSG without the industry having to list MSG by itself. When nerves in the taste buds get fired up with MSG, flavor is ‘enhanced’ , to the point of reaching for more volume of the food than you would otherwise be inclined to reach for. NIH lists MSG as an obesogen, for that reason at least, and perhaps from rat studies that led to obesity in rats. Is this understanding largely correct, or would you beg to differ on some of the details? My sci lit searching research around these issues is a couple of decades old, does it still hold true?
I cant eat “Wheat Thins” crackers. I found this out years ago when i would get restless leg everytime i ate them (so uncomfortable!). I have a friend who is very educated in this stuff so I asked her what would be causing it? She had me read the ingredients, and then said that they were using words that were a “cover up for msg” (maltodextrin). Msg is in a LOT of things, but named something youre not looking for.
Since there is a hidden advantage to a food supply company to include a lot of MSG in its product, in order to sell more product compared to another similar product, there appears to be a war of companies trying to sneak more and more MSG into their food than in the other companies’ product. The label practices are very misleading about this ability to mask the total content of MSG in foods. IMHO
Great info – keep up the good work.
Where does everyone find easy recipes for homemade “treats,” as in cupcakes, cookies, etc. We HAVE to have them in my household. I would like them to be pretty easy also. Would love some help with this. I’m retired and disabled, but i can sit on a stool to cook.
Hi Vani – I commented this on your Instagram as well, but if you haven’t read the books by Medical Medium yet, I highly, highly recommend them. It’s right up your alley with even more info that could be beneficial to your investigations. According to him, natural flavors is hidden MSG. I would love to hear him go into more details on this myself, because I don’t think that can apply to every single product out there, probably depends on the company itself and where they are sourcing, but I know it applies to a lot of them. Love you and all you do for us!
I agree with the idea it is bad that processed foods use flavor enhancers to get you to eat more but what harm can flavored unsweetened water do? Like in La Croix flavored waters? I hate the taste of plain water and never get my recommended daily amount in unless I drink something like La Croix. I also drink a lot of plain iced tea. No sweeteners in anything but it makes my getting water down easier.
Herbal tea is a great choice!!! Stinging Nettles with mint on ice yummmmy! Have you tried slices of cucumber in water, makes it sweet and refreshing.
have u guys seen the ewg food ratings? IIRC, ‘natural flavors’ are often listed as a concern, but of ‘lower importance’ … what about ‘organic natural flavors’?
Pretty sad that you find the RXBAR in so called Non-GMO and/or organic stores.
In early 2000’s I was following aspartame information trying to learn if it really was an ant poison like the stories said. (I bought some hoping so and it did not work very well for ant poison – they are too smart to eat it!)
I learned that the head of the food and drug administration at the time had ties to the food industry. He made it legal to “hide aspartame” in the “natural flavors” title for ingredient lists. When he left the government office he got a nice high paying job within a company that uses lots of nutrasweet. Aspartame – American Cancer Society
That prompted me to avoid “natural flavors” at that time but like you have stated – it pops up everywhere!
Hello. I will not buy any food product which lists ‘natural flavor’ in the ingredients because it is unregulated and secret. No manufacturer will tell you what the ‘natural flavor’ is derived from. Sometimes, you can see that it is replacing a real flavor like many brands of ice creams. When it is not a replacement, I have no clue why they included it.
I bought the book on Amazon. Can’t wait to read it! Thanks for sharing Food Babe! Love you!
What is in the “natural flavors” in La Croix? Is there any way to find out?
I am so grateful for this valuable information Vani! I watch labels very closely now because I am a 65 yr old grandma of a 2 yr old and I want him to be very healthy. I am so disappointed that almost all yogurt has natural flavor in it. I only found one brand in the grocery store without it and thankfully my grandson will eat it. As for snacks we mostly stick with organic fruit. It sure is hard nowadays to find healthy food that little ones will eat. I am so grateful to know what to watch out for! Thank you Vani!!
Natural flavors can kill you, or at least cause illness or even cancer. I was at Publix and saw a bag of grapes that read, Naturally Flavored. Why the heck would a manufacturer add a lab additive in a natural product? Yes, Natural Flavors is made in a lab. It is not natural. It is basically artificial flavoring. It’s a scam that is fooling the nation and harming our bodies. Whenever I eat the ingredient Natural Flavors, my digestion goes haywire. I have an appetite but I cannot eat because of the inflammation. The inflammation comes on 24 hours later and it lasts for 3 weeks. Therefore, I lose about 10 pounds with each occurrence. Why do we get ill? This is one of the reasons why people are running to medical professionals like at Progressive to find out they have cancer. Are the medical industry and food industry acting together to make us sick for profit? It makes me wonder.
Great video, thanks!
Obviously, there are many “natural flavours” added to different consumables (i.e. ‘foods’).
Is not the “natural flavour” in Doritos or Sun Chips essentially MSG?? –> Glutamic acid (chemically similar to MSG, lacking only the sodium ion). And if so, might it carry with it some of the undesirable effects that come with MSG (i.e. headaches, hives, fatigue)?
Hi! This interview was fabulous! Thank you so much, Vani. I’m definitely going to buy Mark’s book.