The age old debate: Artificial vs Natural flavour and sweeteners

By Adam
20 February 2015

This topic has been around for a few decades now.  From the rise of artificial flavours in the late 20th century, to the back to basics resurgence in the last 10-15 years; the trend towards eating food like our grandparents did, before words like ‘artificial’ and ‘preservative’ were even being used, has taken a huge leap forward. You only have to look at diets like paleo, I quit sugar and the whole food revolution to see the emphasis on real and natural foods.

Eating naturally is easier when you have the know-how.  The desire for knowledge from the average consumer is also on the increase and with that knowledge comes the ability to make the right decisions for you and your family.

What is the difference?

Let’s start by getting to know the difference between artificial and natural flavours and sweeteners and their pros and cons. The definition of natural flavour is:

“the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”

On the flip side, artificial flavours are those that are made from components that do not meet this definition. Essentially, ‘natural’ is derived from organic matter and ‘artificial’ is derived from synthetic materials.

The Imitation Game

Adding flavour to a product, whether natural or not, is common practice.  It unlocks the ability to replicate our favourite tastes in many different foods that would otherwise offer very little on the flavour sensation scale. When delivered correctly it can be an amazing way to enjoy some of those healthy foods without an otherwise bland taste.

When replicating a real flavor, the best way to start is with the real thing by using a naturally derived concentrate as the base. Going artificial makes it much harder to initially get that same taste.

Take grape flavour for example.  You know when you chew “grape explosion bubblegum” that the intensely sweet, artificial flavour is certainly not what a real grape tastes like.  Or think of a banana milkshake and that sweet-yellow milk.  Although delicious, it is not what an actual banana tastes like. This is because artificial flavours tend to only imitate 1 level of the complex mix that makes up the whole taste of a real thing. Banana has many contributing factors that make up its whole flavour like ripeness, variety and environmental factors that can only be encapsulated from the real thing.

Let’s face it, there is nothing like the real thing!

Pros and Cons

There is no denying there are benefits to using artificial flavouring and sweeteners, such as convenience, taste enhancement and cost. You can produce an intense flavour in almost anything, reasonably easily and quite cheaply with artificial flavours.  Those benefits may be great for the manufacturer but it will be your health that suffers because of it.

Take sucralose for example or Splenda as it is commonly known.  This artificial sugar replacement was thought to be the answer to our sweet loving prayers because it is zero calorie.  Sounds great, right?

Further studies published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health have found that sucralose can bring a whole host of damaging problems including, a reduction of good gut bacteria, released toxins when baked and it alters your bodies’ insulin responses and blood sugar levels.

The downside of natural flavouring and sweeteners is they are more expensive and more subtle in flavor.  This makes the process of flavouring products naturally a much harder task for manufacturers.  However, you don’t get any of the negative health effects - in fact, you can even get a health benefit.

For example, cocoa is known for its high levels of antioxidants that will benefit your health and make for a real flavour.

Another natural product that has risen in popularity as a natural sugar replacement with the added benefit of zero calories, is Stevia. Stevia is a plant derived sweetener produced in South America where natives have used the natural leaf to sweeten food and medicine for hundreds of years.  It has also served as a treatment for burns, colic and stomach problems in the region. Being 200 times sweeter than sugar in the same quantity, it certainly serves its purpose as a natural sweetener.

Conclusion

Armed with the awareness and understanding of the difference between artificial and natural flavourings and their associated benefits, you have the power to make the decisions for yourself. On the whole, artificial options tend to be cheaper, so for the price conscious it may be the best option.  For a few dollars more here and there, when you choose naturally flavoured and sweetened products, you can rest assured you are buying the real thing.

With that comes the peace of mind that you won’t be opening the door to any nasties that can cause a whole host of adverse effects and with little or no nutritional benefit. So next time you are asking yourself the question ‘natural or artificial’, you can make an informed decision and make the right choice.

The True Protein Mission

At True Protein, our number one goal and promise is to only use the best quality natural ingredients in all of our products. Whether that be Premium Grass-fed Whey Protein from New Zealand that is flavoured with natural ingredients and sweetened with stevia through to Organic Acai Berry, or our wide range of amino acids.  We will always strive to provide the best, most clean and honest products possible.

This is backed up by our commitment to transparency.  You will always know what we are putting in, so you can be sure what you are getting out. We have been called fussy, uncompromising and over the top by suppliers, but for us there is no substitute for quality.

 

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