When was the last time you consumed artificial food coloring? We like color in our food, but if we’re not cautious, it may cost us our health.
As Red Velvet Oreos hit the grocery store shelves, I began thinking about just how much red dye has to be used to color cakes and cookies with such a deep, luxurious red color. A simple search revealed that Southern Red Velvet cake calls for 2 tablespoons of food coloring. That doesn’t seem like a lot, however with Red Dye No. 3 and No. 40 at the top of the list for health concerns, is it really worth taking the risk?
Red dye is also the most commonly used food and beverage coloring additive on the market today, and just about every shelf-item is being pumped full of artificial color to make them more visually appealing to consumers. Other items like hair dye, oral medication, toothpaste, lotions, and shampoos can also contain chemical additives to change their appearance and consistency. So whether we consume or absorb them, what effects can these dyes have on our health?
Artificial colorings and dyes are processed, synthetic ingredients, often from toxic sources, which consumed in quantity just might be potent enough to cause carcinogens, hyperactivity in children, thyroid problems, and other health issues. While no studies have proven the link to medical problems and food dyes, an analysis at Columbia University confirmed that removing food items with artificial coloring helped to relieve the symptoms of children previously diagnosed with ADHD. Eliminating these items might be a simple enough solution for some parents to consider prior to heavy medications.
So how can you steer clear of food dyes? The easiest way to avoid any of these allowed dyes is to get to know your food labels. Check the back of anything you buy, especially children’s items! While many food dyes have been banned from use in the UK and United States, the FDA still allows the use of seven dyes for use here in America. These dyes are: Blue No. 1, Blue No. 2, Green No. 3, Red No. 3, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, with the most potentially dangerous dyes being Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5. (Take a look at this eye-opening chart on FoodBeast.com.) The other way to avoid toxic dyes while still playing with fun colored food is to create your own from the very colorful Mother Nature herself.
12 Natural Ways Food Dyes
Try these natural food dye suggestions in your homemade treats! Just remember, you’re working with natural items that won’t give off the same deep colors you’re probably used to. That being said, the lighter pastel colors are beautiful! Try experimenting with different combinations and amounts until you get the appearance you’re looking for.
For whole foods like beets and berries, simply pulverize in a blender or food processor then run it through a fine mesh strainer. When using spices, remember that their flavor will transfer to whatever you’re making, so start with a small amount and work your way up. Most importantly, remember to have fun!
Blue and purple
- Red cabbage (boil in a small amount of water for purple then add baking soda for blue)
- Spinach juice