Dear Barbara: My reason for emailing you, other than telling you your articles are very helpful, is about natural flavors. I try to only eat organic foods, so when I see natural flavors in the ingredients, I don't know why. Organic stevia has natural flavorings in it. Organic crackers have it. Why? What is it? Is it all the same in everything? Is it OK to eat? I am just curious. Thank you. — Karol V., Aptos, California
Dear Karol: Why are flavors added to food? As much as nutrition is important, the overwhelming reason we buy certain products is for the taste. So companies add flavors to enhance or modify the taste of food, say experts at the International Food Information Council. (I just bought a sparkling water that is "naturally essenced" with coconut flavor, for example.)
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a natural flavor must come from one of the following sources: spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products or fermentation products. So, no, it's not the same in everything. And yes, it is OK to eat. If a product you buy is 100% organic, the natural flavors should be, as well.
Hi, Barbara: I read your column about cooking with aluminum foil to save cleanup and thought I'd pass along to you my habit. For a handful of years, I have lined the pans of nearly everything I bake with parchment paper. I use it not only on cookie sheets but also for cakes, baked chicken or ribs. I also began because of the water saving during cleaning, but I found that parchment has the added advantage of being compostable, so it can be thrown in the green waste. Best regards. — Sharyn Y., Morro Bay, California
Dear Sharyn: Good idea! However, not all parchment paper can be composted or recycled. Check with your local recycling agency to get more guidance.
Hi, Barbara: A question about beets: Somewhere around 40 years ago, I had a home garden and raised a crop of beets. I had never heard of anyone eating a raw beet, so I tried one. After about two bites, my throat suddenly felt like it had closed up tight. It was a scary experience, but I have never heard of that happening to anyone else since then. Have you ever heard of that reaction? Needless to say, I have not tried that again. The cooked beets were fine, no problem. — Curt M., Corvallis, Oregon
Dear Curt: The reaction you had when you ate the raw beet sounds like an allergic response. I researched this a bit and found that beet allergy is rare but can happen. It's interesting you don't have problems with cooked beets. No answer for you on that. Readers?
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian. Email her at email@example.com.
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