Color Your World…the Natural Way
What is more beautiful, a tomato ripened by the sun, or injected with dye? Seems obvious, but if you look carefully at your food, beverage and medicine labels, you may be surprised. Food and beverages have been “colored” to make them more attractive to the eye (and stomach!) since ancient Greek times-with grape skins providing added color and uniformity to wines and juices, as well as coloring clothing, in a natural way.
Unfortunately, in our time of processed foods, artificial methods to color our foods have won out over natural for many reasons-cheaper, easier to produce etc. Artificial colors (and other ingredients) have been strongly linked (despite the recent government snub that there is not enough of a link) to abnormal behavior in children, mainly hyperactivity and ADD, yet they persist in many processed foods despite natural options. In the United Kingdom, M&Ms are made with natural colors, but here in the U.S., we still are using artificially derived colors. Some chicken is injected with yellow coloring and beef with red to “appear” fresher. Look at a box of Blueberry Nutra Grain Bars-wholesome oats, no high fructose corn syrup-but they have artificial coloring! Popsicles, Jello, cake mix, cereal, many beverages and even cheese can have artificial coloring added. But there is hope- colors can come naturally from plants from their roots, leaves, and fruit and also provide value added nutrition as well, with added vitamins or other phytochemicals.
The following are the 7 allowed artificial colorings you typically find in food, medicine and toothpaste:
Some natural options to look for are:
Caramel color-made from the browning reaction when sugar is heated
Experiment with fun ways to create your own colorful Easter eggs this year, and thank the Earth by using something natural for Earth Day. Use any of the above-grape juice makes a great dye (as I know personally from stains on my tablecloth!) but it also makes beautiful lavender to vibrantly purple eggs. Either boil the eggs directly in the added color and water, or add individually to the color with a teaspoon of vinegar and enjoy!
Laura Zurita is a registered dietitian and Montgomery County mom to a 6 year old and wife of a picky eater. The are avid hikers and readers, and are very happy the Phillies baseball season has returned in full swing!