Being a reader of our natural health newsletter, you probably pay more attention than the average Joe to what you eat and drink. You choose natural over artificial and pick the type of food that you consider healthier.

But this can be tricky. Oftentimes things are labeled “natural” or the name of the food indicates that it’s natural when indeed there is nothing natural about it. Could you, for example, explain what the difference is between artificial flavor and natural flavor?

And did you know that if you grab a “blueberry muffin” in your local supermarket, it’s likely there is not a trace of blueberry in that muffin? Those blue dots are processed corn syrup with artificial flavorings.

And what about Organic- can you be 100% sure that it’s really an organic, healthy product?

This is what I’ll try to shed some light on in today’s feature article. Being a complicated issue, I think it’s going to stir up some interesting conversations as well.

The idea for this article came the other day when I grabbed an organic pomegranate ice-tea in my local supermarket. Pomegranate has been proven to be very healthy but I find pure Pomegranate juice a little to strong tasting. So tea is perfect.

Now you’d think that in pomegranate tea, the main substance would be Pomegranate, right? But when reading the ingredients, water was in the first place (expected), sugar in second (somewhat expected) and then grape juice in third and Pomegranate in fourth.

So there was more grape juice in the pomegranate tea than pomegranate.

I don’t think this was really unethical in this case. However, oftentimes juices you buy in supermarkets are actually thinned out with either grape or apple juice (since these are the cheapest to produce), even without putting it on the label. This is especially true when the juice comes from concentrate.

No matter what you buy, you can never believe anything on the package except the official ingredient list; although it can be falsified, but in those cases it’s fraud. Saying something on the advertising space of packaging is most often not considered fraud. 100% cranberry juice on the packaging may be watered out cranberry concentrate with sugar and artificial and natural flavors. But it’s true that part of what’s in the package is 100% cranberry juice.

The only way to really know for sure what kind of juice you’re drinking, is if you get the fruit yourself and juice it. That way you also know the quality of the fruits since of course the worst quality fruits are used for juices while the best are sold as whole foods.

Another product that is more often than not scammed is honey. About 70-80% of all honey sold in supermarket includes less than 10% honey. The rest is high fructose corn syrup. Researches have found that much of this honey includes no pollen (the only way to measure if honey is really honey) although it’s labeled pure honey.

Walking around the supermarket aisles you also see lots of highly processed foods labeled “all natural.” This term is very vague. Really the only thing required to be considered “all natural” is for the product to include no (or very little) amount of artificial flavors or chemicals.

All natural does not mean the food is organic. It can be genetically modified, the animals that the meat is from can be raised with steroids and other drugs and the vegetables can be produced using pesticides and chemicals. The only thing it means is that very little chemicals are added directly into the food.

But “all natural” food can include “natural flavors.” And again the difference between “natural” and “artificial” flavoring is very vague. The basic ingredients that the flavors are made from are the same, it’s just a small difference in how they’re processed.

Flavors are made from vegetables, fruits, eggs or meat by extracting the essence out of them. Natural flavors are made using more natural methods such as distilling, whereas artificial flavors are made using chemicals such as coal tar.

Either way, however, there is nothing natural about using extracted flavors to enhance food because it’s so old or over-processed it has lost all its taste. We all know how good freshly cooked natural food or freshly squeezed juice tastes. If the ingredients are fresh and good, no processed flavoring is needed.

Note: When talking about natural flavors, we’re not talking about normal spices and herbs that are made just by drying the plant. That’s a whole other story and nothing wrong with using those moderately.

Even when it comes to products labeled “Organic,” you need to be careful. Unless the product is labeled “100% Organic,” it may include up to 30% of ingredients that are not Organic, even if it’s labeled “Organic” or “Made with Organic Ingredients.”

And there is no way for you to know which part of a processed product was actually not organic. So you maybe eating “Organic” lasagna only to find out later that the meat was genetically modified and it was flavored using all kinds of chemicals- just as long as it didn’t count for more than 5% of the ingredient.
At this point I’ve hopefully raised some cautions in your mind when it comes to trusting the food industry (even the natural part of the food industry). But since it’s important to our health to focus on healthy, natural food, this article would be useless unless I brought some solutions as well.

So the most essential thing is to read the ingredient labels. If the label is not clear (like just stating natural and artificial flavoring but not which exactly), then it’s probably not so healthy. If it includes a lot of “E numbers” or ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s most likely loaded with chemicals.

If the product is labeled “Organic” or “Made with organic ingredients,” the ingredient list should state clearly which ingredients are organic and you can assume those that are not listed organic are not. It doesn’t mean the product is bad. Many vegetables for example with thick skin don’t take in many chemicals so it doesn’t make much difference if they’re organic or not.

Then, research the companies and choose which ones you believe you can trust; that are honorable and have integrity. As “Natural” and “Organic” become more buzz words, the big corporations are catching on with their productions and marketing. But you can rest assured that their mentality hasn’t changed. The old soda companies are going to push the limit as much as they can when producing “Organic” drinks.

There are, however, smaller companies that were founded by visionaries. People who really believe in the natural, organic approach and often started their companies because they couldn’t find quality products. These are the guys you can trust to produce healthy products, even if they’re not always labeled as such.

Many of the health food stores are also very conscious about their reputations. They can’t afford to offer scam products in their stores because people will stop trusting them and shop somewhere else. If you find a health food store run by an honest person, you can trust almost every product in that store.

Reputation is the most valuable thing for any company. For example, we have published 16 natural health guides focused on various health issues here at Blue Heron Health News.

Almost all our business comes from word of mouth. People who have cured themselves of “incurable” diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis or sexual dysfunctions, recommend those guides to their friends and family members.

This wouldn’t happen if the guides and the programs didn’t work miracles. In fact, the average visitor purchases 2-3 guides. And in the rare occasion the information or exercises don’t work, we’re very strict on honoring our no questions asked money back guarantee.

You can find links to all our natural health programs on the right hand side of this page.

Good, quality health food stores and organic food manufactures think the same way. They’ll only produce and sell the best because that keeps people coming back. So ask around, try things out and when you find someone trustworthy, stick with them.

But first of all, please write your insight into this article below.