There are hundreds of natural flavors created by food chemists. Here are a few that are commonly found in foods and beverages:
- Amyl acetate: This compound can be distilled from bananas in order to provide banana-like flavor in baked goods.
- Citral: Also known as geranial, citral is extracted from lemongrass, lemon, orange and pimento. It is used in citrus-flavored beverages and sweets.
- Benzaldehyde: This chemical is extracted from almonds, cinnamon oil and other ingredients. It is frequently used to give foods an almond flavor and aroma.
- Castoreum: A somewhat surprising and unsettling source, this slightly sweet substance is found in the anal secretions of beavers. It is sometimes used as a substitute for vanilla, although this is rare due to its high cost.
Other natural flavors include:
- Linden ether: Honey flavor
- Massoia lactone: Coconut flavor
- Acetoin: Butter flavor
All of these flavors can also be produced using man-made chemicals created in a lab, in which case they would be listed as artificial flavors. You may also have noticed that most of the time, ingredients labels indicate that the food is made with natural and artificial flavors.
Should You Choose Natural Flavors Over Artificial Flavors?
It may seem healthier to choose foods that contain natural flavors and avoid those with artificial flavors. However, in terms of chemical composition, the two are remarkably similar. The chemicals in a particular flavor may be naturally derived or synthetically created.