Last Updated on January 31, 2024 by Chris Whitehair
Real Ingredients. The Benefits, Explained
From a very young age, we were taught to identify fruits, vegetables, and animals.
We were shown picturesque images of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and small, family farms with quaint red barns, and we learned that these are our food sources.
Eggs come from chickens. Blueberries come from bushes. Herbs come from gardens.
Associating these wholesome images with the food we buy in the grocery store and the meals we consume in restaurants is natural and expected.
Unfortunately, the truth is that food production is much more complicated and industrialized—and has been for decades.
Turn over any processed food package, and you will inevitably see many long, hard-to-pronounce ingredient names, about which you probably have limited knowledge.
Anyone care for a little extra butylated hydroxyanisole or acesulfame-K?
Yeah, me neither.
Many additives are used to preserve food, but there are also several additives used to enhance a food’s color, flavor, or aroma.
Large food manufacturers strive for consistency so that their customers will continue buying their products.
This puts financial pressure on companies and leads to questionable practices that are focused more on cost effectiveness than wholesomeness.
Some of the most common additives found in processed food are flavor enhancers.
Artificial flavors and “natural flavors” are so often found in our food products that they have become generally accepted by the unsuspecting public.
Some educated consumers will steer clear of artificial flavors because of their potential health risks, but the term “natural flavors” seems much safer and more approachable.
The problem is that the term is incredibly vague and misleading.
Let’s break down the differences between the two types of flavor additives.
What Are Artificial Flavors?
Artificial flavors are not derived from sources found in nature but rather from synthetic chemical compounds produced in a lab.
Companies create specific chemical formulas to mimic certain flavors we enjoy, but they are not required to specify what exactly is in these formulas.
The FDA classifies many of these artificial ingredients as “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” based on the “application of generally available and accepted scientific data, information, or methods.”
This leaves quite a bit of leeway as to what can be added to our food, and it is vastly different from those gratifying images of gardens and farms we conjure up in our heads while enjoying our food.
What Are Natural Flavors?
According to the Environmental Working Group’s website, “natural flavors” are the fourth most common ingredient listed in EWG’s Food Scores, a list of 80,000 foods rated for nutrition and safety.
While natural flavors are not made in a lab, they do not necessarily have to come from the same source as the flavor might indicate.
Natural flavors may come from our natural world, but this can include animal sources as well.
One particular substitute for vanilla flavoring, called castoreum, comes from the anal glands of beavers and has made it to the GRAS list.
While the flavoring does come from nature, it certainly has nothing to do with a hand-picked vanilla bean, nor does it evoke comforting feelings or images.
The problem with these formulated flavor additives is that our bodies become more accustomed to these artificial flavors and grow less impressed with what nature has to offer.
Imagine a child who loves orange-flavored drinks but won’t touch an actual orange.
Or the adult who loves pumpkin-spiced lattes but doesn’t prefer to eat actual cooked pumpkin.
Even if consumers are okay with the potential allergy or health risks of artificial and natural flavors, they are not getting any of the vital health benefits that come from real ingredients.
Additionally, these natural and artificial flavors are allowed to contain compounds that give foods a stronger taste than their natural counterpart.
They can also make food taste fresher and even cut off the lingering effect on your tongue so that you will want to eat more.
This is problematic for many reasons and can lead to some serious health repercussions.
There are so many reasons that eating real ingredients is better for our bodies.
While it may seem self-explanatory, it’s good to have a list like the one below so we can occasionally remind ourselves why seeking out foods made with real ingredients is worth the effort and sometimes the higher cost.
The Most Important Benefits of Real Ingredients
1. Vitamins and Nutrients
The natural world is full of foods that are jam-packed with vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. These nutrients improve the function of our bodily systems, including but not limited to the immune, circulatory, digestive, and even neurological system. When we get the important nutrition we need, not only do we feel better, but our mood is improved as well.
These superstars contain special properties that can help our bodies defend against free radicals which cause cell damage. Free radicals have been linked to a range of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and vision loss. Antioxidants come in many different forms, and eating a diet rich in real fruits, vegetables, nuts, and even dark chocolate will ensure that our bodies have a diverse arsenal of these amazing fighters.
Our bodies are host to a plethora of good bacteria, called probiotics. These microbes benefit us by controlling inflammation, supporting immunity, and equalizing the bad forms of bacteria that can make us sick. Probiotics are especially important for gut health and digestion. The most beneficial forms of probiotics come from real foods and ingredients, not packaged or processed foods that have been supplemented.
4. No Surprises!
Seeking out foods made with real ingredients ensures that you are actually eating the same food that the label indicates. Additionally, eating real foods means you don’t have to worry about the emulsifiers, solvents, and preservatives that companies are not required to reveal in their flavor compounds.
5. No Tricks
Artificial and natural flavors sometimes contain elements that make foods taste bolder, fresher, or even less satisfying, prompting consumers to eat more and buy more. Eating whole foods conditions the taste buds to relish the flavors nature intended, thus leading to healthier food choices.
6. Peace of Mind
Having confidence in knowing exactly what is in your food and the food you serve to loved ones is priceless. You can rest assured that you are providing the necessary nutrition to support your own health as well as your family’s.
We Only Use Real Ingredients
Flower City Flavor Company is committed to using real ingredients in our products for all of the reasons outlined above.
The hot sauce, oil, and vinegar industry is littered with companies using natural flavors or artificial ingredients, but we believe we can do better than that.
It’s easy to see that choosing food products with real ingredients is beneficial to our health, our farmers, and our environment.
These ingredients are easy to read and understand.
Most importantly, you can sleep a little easier at night knowing exactly what is in your food.