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Common Food Dyes and How They Affect Your Health

A great many unhealthy foods look delicious, and part of that effect is caused by unnatural, and even harmful, food dyes.

Out of all of the various man-made, synthetic chemicals and ingredients added to our food supply today, food dyes are the ones added simply for the visual appeal. Food dyes are detrimental to our health, and they serve no purpose to the taste, texture, quality, or sustainability of the food!

Why Do We Use Food Dyes?

sprinkles_colorful_artificial_coloring_food_dye_unhealthy_candy_sweet_picBecause so much of our food supply is heavily processed, food dyes are needed to make the food-like product look appealing and appetizing. If we were to see what the food truly looked like without the added coloring, we would walk away! Sadly, because the majority of foods found in the grocery stores today are so heavily processed, this also means that a high number of foods contain added chemical colorings. Some common foods that contain dyes are candy, baked goods, yogurt, cereal, breakfast bars, vitamins, and many processed snack foods. Because children are especially visual, foods marketed towards kids are particularly high in food coloring agents.

Why is color so bad? Well, it’s not that colored food in and of itself is bad; we see rich, vibrant colors all around us in nature! In fact, deep, rich color means that a food is in season, ripe, and bursting with nutrition! The difference comes from where the color is derived. Colors added to foods synthetically are pure chemicals made from very unnatural sources. Color coming from nature, or from sources made from natural foods (such as using beets to make red or pink coloring), not only provides the same visual appeal, but also has the added benefit of supplying some nutrition without any of the harmful processed chemicals! While the natural dyes are just as effective and are actually good for us, they are never used by food manufacturing companies due to the increased cost.

Food dyes are hidden in so many foods today, including white foods, vitamins, medicines, drinks like soda or juice, and many other tricky places. So a great way to know you’re avoiding any coloring agents is to purchase certified one hundred percent organic foods, for which quality standards prohibit the use of ingredients like unnatural food dyes.

What’s so Bad About Artificial Food Dyes?

Currently, there are seven food dyes that are approved and in use in our country. They are Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 3, Red 40, Green 3, Blue 2, and Blue 1. There are two other dyes allowed, but only for limited use: Orange B, which is used in hot dogs and sausages, and Citrus Red 2 to color orange peels. Blue 2 is the same dye used to color blue jeans!

food_dye_artificial_coloring_unhealthy_colorful_eyecatching_sweet_candy_picArtificial food dyes are made from chemicals derived from petroleum and propylene glycol (antifreeze). Yes, petroleum and antifreeze. The same stuff used to fuel our cars, and we are ingesting it at a rate of approximately fifteen million pounds per year!

The problem is that artificial food dyes pose no health benefits, only risks. Their intake is linked with a number of health issues, including cancer, allergies, asthma, sensitivity, and ADHD. The top three most common food dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are particularly contaminated with carcinogens, or cancer causing agents! Even the FDA recognizes Red 3 to be a carcinogen, and yet it’s still allowed in our food supply! Furthermore, these same dyes, as well as Blue 1, are highly linked with allergic reactions.

There are also links between artificial food dyes and eczema, mood swings, bed-wetting, hyperactivity, poor sleep, ear infections, headaches, obesity, diabetes, hives, and possibly even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease! And yet they are still not banned in our country! Other countries have banned such detrimental ingredients as food dyes. In fact, food products that have these dyes in them are required to have a warning label in the U.K.

Many products found in the U.S. that have these coloring agents can also be found in other countries, but instead of the harmful dyes, natural coloring agents are used. Even branches of Walmart, Kraft, and Coca-Cola have removed artificial colorings (as well as some other harmful ingredients) from their foods in other countries due to consumer demand and government involvement. However, the FDA in our country continues to allow these disastrous chemicals in our food supply!

So how can we color our food without the use of these terrible petroleum-based dyes? Use what nature provided! Below is a list of natural food coloring agents by color to help you along your journey of cleaning up your diet and avoiding disease.

Sources for Natural, Healthy Food Dyes


  • Beet juice
  • Cherry juice
  • Raspberry juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Paprika powder


  • Spinach juice
  • Avocado (smashed)
  • Kale juice
  • Parsley juice

Purple & Blue:

  • Blueberry juice
  • Blackberries
  • Grape juice
  • Acai juice

Yellow & Orange:

  • Yellow or orange bell pepper juice
  • Carrot juice
  • Turmeric powder


  • Cacao or cocoa powder
  • Coffee powder
Learn more about the health benefits of turmeric, a natural dye.

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