Food & Fitness

What’s the deal with “natural flavours”?

When conducting my nutrition sessions, something I feel is important to do is to go through my client’s cupboards or fridge to discuss some of the foods they have in the house, and to go over food labels. Reading food labels inevitably brings out numerous questions about various ingredients, and the one that I want to talk about today is “natural flavours.”

“Natural flavours” is one of those vague terms on ingredient lists that I’ve always been suspicious of. It just seems as a little too innocent-sounding to be healthy. And, as it turns out, “natural flavours” aren’t a desired item on the ingredient list.

simulated flavour

I love this picture. "Simulated flavour"? What IS that?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a great section on their website describing what exactly “natural flavours” are all about:

Substances which impart flavours which have been derived from a plant or animal source, may be claimed to be “natural”. As well, any additive, such as preservatives and solvents added to a flavour preparation to have a technological effect solely on the flavour, does not modify the “natural” status of the flavouring material itself. However, the addition does alter the natural status of the food to which it has been added, even though it need not be declared as an ingredient on the food label. In other words, such foods may not be claimed to “contain only natural ingredients“.

The website notes that “natural flavours” can contain other ingredients, such as preservatives, under the broad term “natural flavours.”

When you’re reading the ingredient list, remember that “natural flavours” might not necessarily be all that much better than “artificial flavours.”

What ingredient on food labels always stumps you? Share in the comments section below!

If you want to learn more about healthy eating and how to incorporate a nutritious diet into your busy lifestyle, please contact me to make a nutrition consulting appointment.


  1. Gem

    I’ve become really concerned about this lately too. When you start to dig into what is really in each of those components it gets pretty dam scary. I’ve started to move more towards using strong natural ingredients in my cooking for flavours like lemon, garlic, lots of fresh herbs, smoked paprika, chilli pepper.

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