The myth of 'natural' flavors

Why the labels have a misleading health halo

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Many foods and beverages such as popular sparkling waters have labels that tout natural flavors. But such designations can be misleading marketing.
Natural flavors are oils and essences that have been derived directly from plants, herbs, spices, or other foods. While the labeling might lead consumers to believe these are healthier ingredients, "they aren’t any better or worse for your diet than artificial flavors since both are calorie-free and don't contain macros," says Kristi King, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and senior dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
Sparkling water with natural or artificial flavoring won't adversely affect your health, says King. Still, she recommends loading your shopping cart with whole foods and squeezing fruit into plain bubbly water.